Innovation in Operations: Advancements in Methods, Systems and Processes

Manufacturing operations at Raytheon has an “innovation” focused mindset, realized in the many activities and initiatives, including agile and lean methodologies and factory continuous improvement projects, that result in increased efficiencies, improved quality and reduced costs. These projects and initiatives often depend on the creation and/or application of advanced manufacturing techniques and technologies.

Part of being an industry leader in manufacturing is the ability to deliver quality products, on time, at competitive costs and in a safe environment. It means not just keeping up with industry trends but setting them, through innovation and staying on the forefront of manufacturing technology and its application.

Innovation solves current and future problems. It can come anywhere in the value chain, from associates assembling products in the factory to manufacturing engineers implementing processes and tooling for the production floor. A key component in this vision is the Raytheon Six Sigma (R6s) program, a business strategy supporting company mission and goals. While traditional Six Sigma focuses on statistical methods to identify causes of variation and eliminate defects, the R6s program extends the process to include Lean objectives (e.g. eliminating waste to increase throughput and reduce costs) and a ‘total system’ approach to eliminating bottlenecks that contributes to overall operational improvement. R6s provides value across the enterprise from manufacturing to business development, and extends to supplier and customer communities as well. It adapts to changing business needs and empowers every employee to deliver impactful and far reaching improvements that support business growth.

In addition to R6s, Raytheon employees are provided other avenues for innovation ranging from basic crowdsourcing tools to corporate wide programs that present innovation challenges and solicit new technological ideas and methodologies. These activities are designed to create opportunities for everything from problem solutions to operational improvements to solving critical customer mission needs. In the broader scope, resources are geared toward ideas that are either entrepreneurial in nature, define new process methods or require initial study/proving prior to Independent Research and Development (IRAD) or Contract Research and Development (CRAD) funding. The intent is to quickly provide innovators the initial support needed to refine their ideas for a follow-on funded activity. 

There are multiple business areas within Raytheon continually innovating and solving problems. While the development of a new methodology or resolution of a problem in a specific organization is good, being able to utilize new ideas throughout the company is even better.

Raytheon created Technology Networks, a collaborative organizational infrastructure designed around individual technology areas, to facilitate enterprisewide communication and promote technology sharing. The networks include technology workshops and interest groups as well as internal technology focused symposia. While strengthening contributions to programs and Businesses, the Technology Networks provide employees opportunities to engage and share knowledge with colleagues having similar technology interests across the enterprise. 

Technology plays a critical role in manufacturing and the ability to produce quality, cost-effective products on time in a safe and efficient environment. It is also a driving influence on the fourth industrial revolution, or digital transformation known as Industry 4.0 (Click to learn more). In 2012, Raytheon created the Manufacturing Technology Network (MfgTN). With a focus on the development, optimization and proliferation of advanced manufacturing technologies, the MfgTN facilitates communication between all technical disciplines that support manufacturing across the enterprise. It promotes cost and risk reduction through common manufacturing methods, creates avenues for manufacturing technology transfer among business segments and fosters technical communication through Technology Interest Group (TIG) meetings and a biennial Manufacturing Technology Symposium.

Raytheon has implemented many advanced manufacturing methods and processes, incorporating state of the art technologies such as robotics, machine vision, remote sensors, data analytics and machine learning. These process improvements have resulted in cycle time reductions, cost savings and increased quality. Tremendous benefits have also been realized in designing new products for manufacturing that take full advantage of process capabilities such as common factory test platforms and fully automated assembly cells.

Many of Raytheon’s innovative manufacturing solutions create intellectual property in the development of quality, cost-effective solutions. Raytheon also works closely with academia, standards bodies and consortia, such as the Manufacturing USA® Institutes, to effect improvements to industry standard processes and practices on a more general level. These technology contributions are shared for the betterment of the US defense industrial base and to accelerate advanced manufacturing in the United States.

Manufacturing USA, originally known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, is a group of research institutes in the United States that focuses on creating and commercializing advanced manufacturing technologies. Manufacturing USA comprises multiple institutes covering areas such as electronics, additive manufacturing, textiles, robotics and biopharmaceuticals. Raytheon is a member of several of these institutes, working with both academic and industry partners in areas such as multidisciplinary design analysis, solutions for lifecycle feedback for legacy manufacturing, additive manufacturing and high dynamic range RF photonics. One recent activity, through the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is to advance the use of collaborative robotics (cobots) in manufacturing to improve the assembly and integration of wire harnesses into electrical cabinets.

Raytheon small satellite assembly lines use robotics to increase reliability and decrease cost

Raytheon also works directly with academic institutions, developing new and innovative processes, materials and technologies, and the methods to effectively and efficiently transition them to the factory. For example, the “Raytheon at Kostas Research Institute,” in partnership with Northeastern University, is speeding the development of research into new technological capabilities in additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, thermal management, magnetics and nanotechnology. The Raytheon UMass Lowell Research Institute (RURI) continues to advance capabilities in additive manufacturing of RF components and assemblies. And collaboration with Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus is refining the university’s Manufacturing Engineering degree curriculum to ensure technical support needs are met on future factory floors.

IN THIS EDITION

Raytheon has a long history of bringing innovation to the defense manufacturing industry. In this “Innovation in Operations” edition of Technology Today we present a series of feature articles highlighting many of the key areas in which we continue this tradition of advancing manufacturing’s state of the art.

Figure 1: Automated optical inspection of a printed circuit component

Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA®) has enabled automation advancements (Figure 1), reduced design cycle time and improved producibility. With Sustainment (DFMA/S), it is a methodology that considers cost minimization throughout a product’s lifecycle. In Maria Spalt and Mark Steudel’s “Design for Manufacturing and Assembly with Sustainment throughout the Product Lifecycle,” we explore the significant benefits of DFMA/S methods and practices, particularly when initiated early in a product’s design cycle.

In many ways, robotics highlight Raytheon’s implementation of the Smart Factory (Figure 2). From a product’s Design for Automation engagements to logistics enhancements on the factory floor, robotic technology is advancing the fundamentals of our manufacturing capabilities. Kristen Stone, David Miceli, Jayson Diaz and Blair Simons have authored “Robotics in the Factory” to showcase how robots are a key player in the development, optimization and proliferation of advanced manufacturing technologies across the company.

Figure 2: A fist bump with a collaborative robot (cobot) on the factory floor

Whether combining the real world with the virtual or a manual operation with digital content (Figure 3), augmented reality (AR) is helping Raytheon reduce total costs and improve the quality of how we develop, manufacture and maintain technologically advanced products. In the “Augmented Reality: Into the Factory and Beyond” feature article by Keith Janasak, John Cogliandro, Brent Dingle, Adam Feccia and Kristen Stone, the capabilities and benefits of AR are presented through examples of immersive design, projected work instruction and remote collaboration and maintenance.

Figure 3: Augmented Reality wearables are beginning to replace computers and monitors in the warehouse and on the factory floor (left). Artists’s Rendition – Through AR, a torque gauge is projected in the technician’s visible work area (right)

The additive manufacturing initiative was established to accelerate the adoption of AM throughout Raytheon’s product family. From prototype development to production, through investments in People, Process, Tools and Technology, this focused activity creates key discriminators for new products and efficiencies for growth. Figure 4 is a photo of the laser powder bed fusion process; one of the effort’s primary focus areas. In “Additive Manufacturing: Stepping into the Future,” Leah Hull, Travis Mayberry and Brian Gahan discuss the technical aspects and provide examples of how AM is helping to bring more cost-effective solutions and advanced capabilities to our customer.

Figure 4: Additive Manufacturing of metals using a laser powder bed fusion process

Raytheon’s unique approach to the digital transformation embodies the company’s implementation of the Digital Thread. Creating assimilated knowledge assets, empowering program acceleration, and enabling model based technologies are just a few of the objectives in this activity. Dave Slader, Greg Piper and Ron Williamson explain in “Digital Thread Initiative: Unlocking Business Value for Raytheon” how emerging technologies are helping to link key pieces of information across the full product lifecycle to create a “connective tissue” within the context of the deliverable product.

Figure 5: Unique XeriscapeTM using native, drought-tolerant and low water-use vegetation at the Raytheon Tucson site

Sustainability in Raytheon’s products extends to efforts to engineer a sustainable future through environmental stewardship and the preservation of natural resources at our facilities (Figure 5). The sustainability principles are enterprisewide and influence every aspect of our company. In “Sustainability in Raytheon Factories and Buildings,” Nicole Sweeney discusses how integrating sustainability throughout our operations drives an innovative approach to problem-solving that yields solutions with co-benefits to both the environment and the business (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Solar panels at Raytheon’s Tucson facility supplement energy for both lighting and hot water

In both communication and practice, from improvement to existing operations (yield, reliability, cost, automation, etc.) to transitioning new/enabling design technologies to large scale operations, Raytheon fosters innovation throughout the company. Whether internal or through partnerships with academia and industry, Raytheon will continue to focus on advancements in technology and processes that bring added value to both customers and the defense manufacturing industry.

— Chad Spalt & Charles Barbour