The use of portable automated equipment has increased in recent years with the introduction of flex track, crawling robots, and other innovative machine configurations. Portable automation technologies such as these lower infrastructure costs by minimizing factory floor space requirements and foundation expenses. Portable automation permits a higher density of automated equipment to be used adjacent to aircraft during assembly. This equipment also allows concurrent work in close proximity to automated processes, promotes flexibility for changes in rate, build plan, and floor space requirements throughout the life of an airplane program.
This flexibility presents challenges that were not encountered with traditional fixed machine drilling centers. The work zone surrounding portable machines is relatively small, requiring additional setup time to relocate and position machines near the airframe. Moveable equipment also allows more opportunities for human error, such as loading parts and programs out of sequence, leading to operational inefficiencies and rework. A well executed manufacturing plan is needed to determine machine loading strategy to efficiently position and operate the machines. This paper will examine methods to improve efficiency and reduce errors for portable automation by integrating various portable automation equipment using a centralized cell controller (CCC), an optical motion tracking system, and simple handling equipment.