Challenges & Solutions for Aerospace Leader


Written by Paul Siebert on 5/22/2017

About the Customer

Hyla Soft has been working with one of the world’s largest and most recognizable manufacturers in the Aerospace & Defense industry.

The Customer’s Need

The need for this customer can be broken down into 5 distinct goals:

1. Reduce the amount of physical strain on employees by reducing the need for employees to perform repetitive, physically stressful jobs.

The biggest example of this is riveting, a task that needs to be done hundreds, if not thousands, of times per airplane. Studies have shown that, over time, performing this task repetitively can be harmful to employees:

2. Increase Process Efficiency

Anytime human beings are in control of production processes, there is a chance that errors will be introduced into the process. This is a pretty common theme across any type of manufacturing process. This is especially true when you are considering the fact that each of the hundreds or thousands of rivets per airplane represents another point of potential failure in the process. By automating the process, and using machines to accurately pinpoint rivet locations every time, the customer hopes to reduce the need for rework, thereby increasing process efficiency and reducing time to market for its products.

3. Reduce Costs

There are a number of potential targets of cost saving measures within the current production process. Firstly, by increasing process efficiency, the customer hopes to achieve lower rework costs. Moreover, by reducing time to market, the customer hopes to reduce the overall cost of inventory on hand. This is especially vital for this customer because every individual product produced has actually already been sold. Reducing the amount of time that the product spends in the production process directly affects the amount of assets the customer has. Finally, by automating certain tasks, the customer hopes to be able to reduce the amount of capital input required for the production of each product. Where previously, the production of an airplane fuselage might have required many employees, now the same process can be achieved with a handful of employees instead.

4. Manufacturing Intelligence

This customer also requires a detailed understanding of the new production process being put into place. This includes an understanding of machine efficiency, which is handled by OEE. For the customer, understanding how efficiently the process is running will allow them to get a better idea of timelines going forward.

5. Traceability & Tracking

Beyond just understanding process efficiency, however, the customer requires that nearly every action within the process be tracked, and its data be recorded, stored, and available for viewing in an understandable manner. This allows the customer to better integrate its business processes with its production processes, as well as provides a detailed log for traceability going forward.  This log is especially important as the customer must work directly with the FAA to ensure that the highest standards for safety are being met for each of its completed products.

About the Solution

The product Hyla Soft delivered to the customer consists of a huge number of moving parts, some of which are literally moving parts. But the overall product is based on an implementation of a Siemens SIMATIC IT MES system.

  • On top of the SIMATIC IT implementation sits a user facing web portal. This web portal is the way in which users interact with the entire system. From here, they can create orders for entire products, send work instructions to individual pieces of equipment, view data returned during work executions and much more.
  • When a user creates an order from the web portal, the SIMATIC IT MES implementation translates the order parameters into a form easily understood by the various pieces of equipment involved in the process. This translation is then passed to the Plant Coordinator PLC, a Siemens PLC that acts as the “communication brain” of the entire process.
  • From there, the Plant coordinator passes the instruction on to PLC that controls the individual piece of equipment needed to execute the action. Eventually, the equipment receives the instruction and starts to perform the work specified.

While, on the face of the matter, this seems like a fairly simple workflow, you must consider that in many cases, multiple instructions are being passed around at any given time. The SIMATIC IT MES system, along with the Plant Coordinator PLC and the various vendor PLCs must keep track of what is happening within the process at all times to ensure that there are no crashes, or other detrimental effects to performing work instructions throughout the entire process. This involves a detailed understanding of where equipment currently is, what it might look like if a work instruction is executed, and how all of this fits into the overall process.

Hyla Soft’s Advantage

Why was Hyla Soft chosen as the best partner and system integrator to support this global Aerospace leader’s ambitious digital initiative? Our consultants have a unique skill set that brings together the power of SIMATIC IT with the simplicity and usability of web based programming, allowing us to produce a system that is both able to perform complex logic, and make it as simple as possible for the end user. Thanks to our global capabilities and resources, we also have the flexibility to have consultants on site for implementation and testing purposes.

The project as a whole is still being fully implemented, however, parts of the project are in use at the moment. The work continues as the customer moves towards a seamlessly automated and fully transparent manufacturing process, from beginning to end.

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