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September 2005 edition

Trial begins for F-35 assembly line programme

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company has begun the implementation of its first ever continuous moving assembly line for the combat fighter jet, which it claims will increase production efficiency, reduce floor space and save the company an estimated $300 million over the life of the programme.

It plans to build around 4,500 - 5,000 F-35s, which will replace a number of military aircraft including the F-16, A-10 and AV-8B.

The initial aircraft is scheduled for assembly completion by the end of 2005. All four of the first aircraft's major subassemblies were united in May and June of this year and systems installations are currently underway.

With the help of Japanese consultancy firm Shingijitsu, created by former Toyota employees, Lockheed evolved a manufacturing sequence using digital engineering tools to determine how best to assemble the aircraft.

So how has the implementation gone so far and how well has Lockheed converted to a new way of working?

"It has been very much a cultural change for our company," IPT lead Kevin McGagin says. "We've been building F-16s and F-22s in a certain way for many years, so this has been a huge jump for us."

Shingijitsu arranged for the company to visit factories that had already converted operations from a static line to continuous flow. From there, it estimated how many people would be required to perform each task.

Then came a simulation using a full-scale F-35 model to verify that what ....

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 Related aircraft programs:
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

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