Airlines operate in a high-pressure environment. They are in constant competition for customers and operate on very tight schedules with little leeway. Refits of aircraft in an airline’s fleet must happen in order to keep fliers satisfied and continuing to fly with the airline. At the same time, airlines cannot afford to have their aircraft out of service for an extended period of time. The aircraft assembly process, therefore, must be without errors. Plus, upgrades to onboard systems must meet exacting specifications and be completed efficiently so that the aircraft can go back into service quickly.
Large scale aerospace parts manufacturers focus on delivering these efficient upgrades. A Mountz Torque customer in this field provides power, connectivity, lighting, interior, and test solutions that airlines depend on to stay competitive. They are always looking for ways to improve productivity in order to more quickly complete aircraft refits and fulfill customer demand. The customer received a multi-million dollar project to install in-flight passenger power modules on a leading airline’s 737-800 and 737-900 jets. Fortunately, Mountz tools were able to complete the job with precision and help them deliver the refit quickly.
Maximizing Productivity in the Aircraft Assembly Process While Maintaining Quality
The company was using light assembly electric torque screwdrivers to build power modules that would sit under the middle seat of each row, allowing passengers to charge their devices during flight. Each airplane would require 64 modules, and refitting the full fleet would require the fast delivery of significant numbers of these modules. Cross-threading of fasteners was a real risk, and any failure in the power module or in its installation could cause the aircraft to be grounded. Every module had to be built and installed with a high degree of precision so that no faults would occur.
The question in any assembly operation is how to do the work quickly while maintaining quality. This is doubly true in the aircraft assembly process where competition is fierce, the timetable has little leeway, and the final operating environment is unforgiving of error. When Mountz sales manager Rob Ralph approached the company, he asked them, “What if you could work faster and smarter by increasing screwdriver RPM and reducing the risk of cross-threading?” It’s a question that cuts to the heart of any assembly operation, as boosting productivity and quality at the same time provides a huge competitive advantage.
“When you think about productivity and quality, you have to look at the full picture to find the right tool. A smart investment upfront can help you maximize the capacity of your existing lines, respond to spikes in demand more effectively, and reduce waste or rework.” – Rob Ralph, Mountz Sales Manager
The company was using a 750 RPM torque screwdriver for the aircraft assembly process. Mountz proposed transitioning to the E-DRIV® NF-220 brushless electric screwdriver. This tool offers adjustable speeds ranging from 700 to 1,200 RPM and a 40 percent increase in RPM capacity—all of which translates to much faster assembly speeds. The NF-220 also had a soft start feature that could reduce the risk of cross-threading. Soft start engages the fastener with only 30 percent of the operating RPM during the first .2 to .6 milliseconds of powering up the tool, allowing the first few threads to be engaged and making it less likely that cross-threading will occur. The tool is also adjustable in 50 RPM increments, allowing it to be fine-tuned for optimal operation. Pairing the E-DRIV® with the Scout II screw counter allowed them to eliminate the risk of improperly seated fasteners and missed fasteners. Combined with a rotary torque sensor for inline torque testing, these adjustments helped the company improve its quality control procedures.
With aircraft assembly being so unforgiving, Mountz’s proposal and its tools were put to a series of tests—which they passed, proving their precision and effectiveness in one of the most demanding assembly environments.
The Results: Increased Capacity Within Existing Infrastructure
The NF-220 was tested for 30 days. After testing, it was projected that the higher throughput and reduced number of reworks enabled by the NF-220 could result in a 30 percent production increase through the company’s existing lines. Following this initial testing, they ordered enough units to fully outfit a single line. Over the next two years, they would go on to replace all their previous electronic screwdrivers with the NF-220 and discover that it offered far more than increased capacity. The NF-220’s brushless design also required less maintenance than their previous electronic screwdrivers, which reduced costs and improved accuracy.
The NF-220 is also designed, built, and certified to be electro-static discharge (ESD) safe. The screwdriver’s conductivity is less than 1 Ohm at the bit. This significantly reduced the risk of latent or catastrophic failure in the modules later—a critical consideration in the aircraft assembly process, where passenger and crew safety is the most vital consideration.
The total savings from the increased capacity, reduced reworking, and reduced scrap were projected at $130,000 annually. The company could also sustain a 30 percent production increase without having to expand their production space. As a result, they were able to service more demand for approximately the same operational costs.
Improving productivity doesn’t have to mean establishing new production lines and expanding facilities. Improving tool RPMs can optimize productivity on existing lines for approximately the same overhead. Enhancing quality control with screw counters and error-proofing aids can further enhance production, and ESD-safe tools can reduce rework operations and improve the quality and safety of products. In short, precise torque tools built with innovation and a dedication to quality can significantly improve the productivity of the aircraft assembly process.
Mountz, Inc. knows the importance of torque control to optimize production and quality. To see our full range of products, shop our store. Contact us anytime to ask a question. To inquire about price, request a quote. If you’d like to see our equipment in person, schedule an appointment.