In a bid to improve production management of bespoke, small-batch manufacturing processes EADS has begun a research project, majority funded by the European Union, with industrial and academic partners to develop more effective planning and control systems.
The European aerospace group's research and development division, EADS Innovation Works, is managing the €11.5 million ($14.7 million) project, which began in September and will run for just over three years. The EU is contributing €8.5 million to the scheme as part of its wider €1.2 billion "Factory of the Future" research initiative.
Named ARUM - or adaptive production management - the objective of the project is to develop risk mitigation strategies as well as better information and communication technology (ICT) to ensure smooth production ramp-ups of custom-made, complex products, such as aircraft interiors, in small batches.
EADS says that a "new approach" is needed as demand for individual and sophisticated products is growing while development cycles are shorter than in the past. Missing maturity and late design changes for high technology products and processes create "significant risks" on a "daily" basis, the group adds.
Problems with the cabin interior installation played a large part in the programme delays on the Airbus A380.
The ARUM team is to develop strategies to respond faster to unexpected events during production, and new product engineering will be better integrated into manufacturing processes.
Future ICT should also contribute to reducing risks and serve as an early warning system for the production ramp-up. A new software generation with a "service-based architecture and knowledge-based multi-agent systems" will be employed.
The new ICT is to be tested in a real industrial environment, says EADS, and benchmarked against existing systems.
ARUM involves 14 industrial partners - including Prague-based ICT specialist Certicon and Italian galley equipment manufacturer Iacobucci - as well as research institutes from seven EU countries and Russia.