Smart Portable Tools: The Practical Solution to Agile Assembly 2013-01-2295
Fully autonomous systems are seen as the ultimate solution to all manufacturing problems due to their consistent quality and ability to improve rates, but they also have one key disadvantage: Limited equipment versatility. This shortcoming becomes most apparent when trying to apply automation to aircraft final assembly. The variety of jobs is great and would necessitate the development of many unique solutions. Therefore a robotic system designed for one job on one aircraft version might be useless on the next version. Also there are many tight spaces and complex jobs where automation is just not practical, meaning that workers with portable tools will always have some presence in production.
The modern smart portable tool as exemplified by the Novator PM Series orbital drill motor is capable of matching the quality and speed of a robotic system while still maintaining the ability to be applicable over a wide variety of jobs. Smart portable tools build on the tried and true portable tool methods used for over 100 years but add features like: process monitoring and feedback, application specific solutions, quality traceability and much more. In addition smart portable tools have the inherent capability of allowing simple and low cost scalability since the workers do not need to be especially skilled and the equipment is interchangeable and available off the shelf. Therefore worker/tool teams can be added or removed as needed. The Novator PM Series orbital drill motors are the perfect example of this idea; they make the worker more productive, capable and consistent while adding process traceability and keeping all the versatility of a portable tool. This paper will use the development of the Novator PM Series orbital drill motors and their implementation on the 787 as an example of how smart portable tools can be used to enhance worker productivity and achieve unmatched quality during manufacturing of the world's most advanced commercial aircraft.