Some are fond of saying that “it’s not the destination but the journey that counts.” The Stratoflex Products Division (SPD) of Parker Aerospace might argue that it is both. The division has spent the last 18 months laying the groundwork for its zero defects program (ZDP), putting in place the training, technologies, and processes needed to help it continue along the path toward flawless manufacturing.
Specialists in engine fluid conveyance systems, SPD partners with airframe and engine providers to craft customized solutions for each application, integrating everything from hoses, couplings, swivels, regulators, and fuses to fuel lines, main landing gear hydraulics, and galley cooling into best-in-class systems. Developing such innovative and high-performance systems requires a fluid conveyance partner with a mindset for continuous improvement, which is why Stratoflex has embraced ZDP.
The program, defined
ZDP is a method that allows companies to identify and manage both known and unknown variables while predicting risk. The program is designed to use performance as a predictor of risk and helps to illuminate where improvement, corrective action, and risk mitigation need to be addressed. It also helps predict and prevent other potential escapes, whether in SPD operations or in our supply chain. Such ongoing process monitoring also affects product design, motivating design engineers to “design right the first time.”
Changes in customer expectations
Today, engine and airframe customers are no longer satisfied with simply receiving a product; every product received must now be on-time and on-quality. To assure that these standards are met, customers are raising the bar, demanding a higher level of quality and root-cause corrective action when quality standards are not met. In fact, many customers have established their own formal zero-defect programs.
This insistence on quality is due in part to historically high ramp rates for commercial aircraft. Boeing and Airbus both had record aircraft deliveries in 2018 and are anticipating continued high-production outputs. This puts enormous pressure on suppliers to provide products that precisely match requirements in every way, every time.
Additionally, the international effort establishing AS 9100 as the single quality management system used within the aerospace industry has also raised quality expectations. The industry has moved toward requiring subcontractors and suppliers to be AS9100 compliant and/or certified. By conforming to the standard, suppliers must be able to:
- Demonstrate the ability to control and correct non-conformances
- Ensure that production processes are capable
- Control their supply chain
- Manage product and process changes
- Monitor and control production
For SPD, meeting these mandates has meant implementing a three-pronged approach to zero defects. Stratoflex is not alone in its efforts to eliminate defects; Parker Aerospace and all of its manufacturing divisions are embracing ZDP.
SPD’s ZDP: culture, technologies, and processes
ZDP starts with a mindset for quality.
“We’re working hard to create mindsets that won’t produce, pass on, or accept defects at SPD. We’re conducting training sessions to determine how the construct of zero defects relates to all employees, both in the factory and the office, and how quality and safety are interwoven. By understanding and agreeing on what’s important, we’re creating a culture of quality. For each and every one of us at Stratoflex, there’s no such thing as good enough.”
— David Withrow, site operations manager for Stratoflex
Quality mindsets at SPD are being augmented by quality-focused technologies that enable a deeper dive into defect detection and root causes. For example, Stratoflex has begun using process failure mode effects analysis (PFMEA) to analyze, identify, and rate risk within an existing process. The highest risk ratings are immediately targeted for elimination or mitigation.
By allowing Stratoflex to continually examine processes, PFMEA weeds out the potential for error in design, manufacturing, and purchasing. But the benefits don’t end there. PFMEA also helps move suppliers toward a zero-defect reality. In one case, SPD was able to a help a supplier digitize its material certification documents. This enabled faster digital transfer, saving time and increasing accuracy while automating conformance inspections.
New quality processes are being instituted as well. SPD is now moving toward advanced quality product planning (APQP), a structured process embraced by the automotive industry to ensure customer satisfaction when introducing new products or processes. APQP offers a framework of standardized quality requirements that enables suppliers to design a product that satisfies the customer.1 Core APQP tools include failure model and effects analysis (FMEA), measurement systems analysis (MSA), statistical process control (SPC), and production part approval process (PPAP).
When properly implemented, APQP ensures that the voice of the customer is clearly heard, understood, and translated into requirements, technical specifications, and special characteristics. Once begun, the process never stops, leading to early identification of risk and change, resulting in continuous improvement and innovations that support customer delight1.
Are customers delighted with SPD’s ZDP efforts? The answer is yes. New customer-focused solutions are emerging as SPD looks for ways to automate processes and eliminate defects. For example:
- Thermal skiving of hose is providing rapid and consistent removal of hose covers, facilitating zero defects in assemblies
- The use of C NC-based tube bending equipment is producing products that conform to specification requirements every time
As SPD begins exercising the ZD parameters it has in place, the journey to perfection will accelerate. Waste and cost will be reduced, products will consistently meet specifications, and customers will be satisfied, leading to greater opportunities and partnerships.
This post was contributed by Mark Vogel, director of quality for the Stratoflex Products Division of Parker Aerospace.