The practical innovation underway in Project Minotaur includes both iterating the machine itself as well as the assembly line that is producing each unit. As customers continue to provide hands-on operational feedback, the team in Wichita is using its experience, both historic and recent, to literally gear-up for production.
“We are reiterating constantly,” explained Shawn Womack, Assembly Lead. “We started with detailed plans and VR models for a simplified production process that put more tasks in the hands of fewer people, giving them more ownership as craftsmen, and have since used cameras and daily interaction with the team to improve aspects of the workflow.”
Early on, the team took the company’s proven assembly line methodology and asked themselves how they could make it better. “Thinking outside the box” yielded two core innovations, according to Womack.
“First, we took the old chain-to-drag assembly model and replaced it with air float carts that could move an 18,000 lb. machine from station to station as well as adjust height to match the movement needs of each employee and task.”
“Second, we rethought a more ergonomically-friendly manipulator, as well as tool access and how supply carts would be configured.”
Work on various prototype builds has yielded meaningful insights into making these innovations more practical and effective.
More stability and positioning controls are being added to the air carts. Manipulator controls are getting fine-tuned to give operators easier and more efficient access to their units. There’s a project underway to analyze the movement sequences for logistics carts so that every part is placed in the absolute best spot, at the right time.
Equally significant iterative improvements are being made to the “people” side of the equation.
“We’re refining our work instructions so that work content is precise,” said Womack. “We want to ensure that every step is not only accurate, but also maintains the flow of the line.”
That line QA is where looking at both human and tool performance is crucial, especially when it comes to using the tools and parts provided by third-party partners. By collecting accurate data, via cameras and feedback from the operators, any application issues can be separated from performance issues; this means that the team can go back to its partners with the confidence that a problem isn’t user-related. This saves time and yields better solutions.
Perhaps most importantly, the iterative innovations underway now are part of an ongoing commitment to continuously improve Project Minotaur.
“It’s a journey,” added Womack.