Lockheed Martin is considering using "follow the sun" engineering for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter system development and demonstration programme, with a trial project to be set up early next year.

If successful, Lockheed Martin believes the round-the-clock methodology could reduce design times by two-thirds. The approach may also be applied to the development of F-35 mission system software.

The trial will focus on the design of rear fuselage doors with engineering sites at Northrop Grumman in El Segundo, California; Fokker in the Netherlands; and either GKN Engage or Boeing Hawker de Havilland in Australia.

Design packages would be rotated through the sites, based on an 8h working day in each time zone. This effectively provides a 144h working week, if the sites are equi-distant around the globe.

The concept is based on an initiative introduced by GKN Aerospace to rotate design work between the UKand its GKN Engage subsidiary in Melbourne, Australia.

Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice-president JSF, says: "'If you look at the time spacing of El Segundo in California, Fokker in the Netherlands and Australia, you pretty much have three equi-distant points.

"You could roll a package so that you were working a 24h day on an engineering project, where it goes from one engineering site to the next and just keeps going around."

GKN experience indicates that the process provides three peer reviews a day, Burbage says. "So you don't find a mistake weeks or months or in some cases years after it happens. You find it in real-time, several times a day. So the quality of the engineering goes up.

"It seems like just an interesting concept, but if we could find a way to do that, and actually work some of our critical path engineering, we could build ourselves some very good management reserve in terms of schedule."

Source: Flight International