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Lockheed Martin uses a mini-load AS/RS to enable lean manufacturing

After hurricanes damaged its Orlando warehouse, Lockheed Martin used lean principals to design a new facility delivering big results.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
February 24, 2011

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla.
Total Complex: 1.5 million sq ft, including research, development and manufacturing
Manufacturing:  304,500 sq ft, including 90,000 sq ft for fire control
Materials Center for manufacturing support: 30,000 sq ft
Products produced: Electronic systems, vary by contract
Shifts: 1 shift, 5 days a week
Employees: 4,200 total facility

In business, you never know where the winds of change will blow in from.

In the case of Lockheed Martin, three consecutive hurricanes in 2004 were the catalyst to design and build a new parts receiving and shipping center at its missile and fire control plant in Orlando.

Using lean Kaizen techniques, the new Materials Center requires just 30,000 sq ft to store and kit parts and components for the adjacent factory. That compares to 75,000 sq ft in the original facility, which was located in another area on Lockheed Martin’s property.
Despite the reduced storage space, the new center was designed to support a forecasted increase in demand of 300% over the next few years, while reducing operating costs by 15%.

Those improvements came from the combination of relocating the facility next to the factory, re-evaluating every step involved in receiving and storing materials and then implementing materials handling technologies to support the new processes.

“Our processes used to be widely scattered, and involved a tremendous materials handling effort to get materials to the right place for our operators,” says Sam Cox, inventory planning and control manager. “With this facility, we looked at how we could bring everything together in one location adjacent to the manufacturing plant.”
In addition, Lockheed Martin went from a push environment, where parts were kitted far in advance of when they were needed on the floor, to a pull environment, where kits are put together as they are needed.

The center piece of the new Materials Center, which supports manufacturing operations in the adjacent plant, is a three aisle, mini-load automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) with 6,000 storage locations (viastore, http://www.viastore.com/home_inc.html) that can handle 550 transactions per hour. 
The AS/RS is faster, more efficient and provides 5% more storage space than a seven-aisle system in the original facility.

Other features of the new facility include:
—Narrow aisle pallet rack serviced by man-a-board lift trucks for unit load storage.
—A 25-ft. tall vertical shuttle for shop tools and maintenance supplies, and a vertical carousel for storing international shipping documentation required by Customs.
—Wireless mobile workstations that allow inspectors to go to wherever the work needs to be done
—Ergonomically-designed wheeled lift carts for receiving materials
—A 50’ by 80’ bridge crane for handling large loads in shipping and receiving.
—Weather-sealed dock doors equipped with dock locks for safety. 

In the new center, Lockheed Martin has reduced the cycle time from when a work order drops into the MRP manufacturing program to when a kit is recognized as available to the floor from seven days to 1.5 days. What’s more, the facility response time, defined as how fast a an impromptu critical factory request can be filled, was reduced from over four hours to just 15 minutes.

“We have a saying: The factory builds products and the materials center builds trust,” says Cox. “We get what they need, when they need it and in a usable condition. If we do those three things, we’re doing our job.”

Going lean
The Orlando complex totals more than 1.5 million square feet, including 300,000 sq ft of manufacturing space, the materials control center, and space for research and development.
While the electronic systems produced at the missile and fire control complex will vary according to the contract, all products are defense related. Quality is paramount. 

“Because our customer is the war fighter in the field, our product has to work the first time and every time,” says Cox. “We never forget who we’re working for.”

In 2000, Lockheed began implementing the principals of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma to create a lean “factory of the future.”

Plans were on the drawing board to move the materials control center adjacent to the factory in 2008. That timetable was accelerated when the hurricanes of 2004 damaged the roof and the structure of the old building.

The team put in charge of the new materials center was challenged to develop a center that could support increased production in the future while reducing floor space, and operating costs today. The team also wanted to reduce the amount of inventory on hand by 50% and improve the overall cycle time by 30%.

One of the first steps towards meeting those goals was to map all of the processes in the old center. Through that exercise, they were able to eliminate 45 of the 113 process steps. By moving the facility, and through better design and layout, the distance material traveled from the dock to stock was reduced from 2,384 feet to 330 feet and the distance material traveled for shipping was reduced from 442 feet to 240 feet.

A second focus was the velocity of how material flowed through the facility. The design of the AS/RS system played a role there too. The system, which handles 550 transactions per hour, is designed so that each crane performs a putaway and retrieval on every move. In addition to AS/RS wheeled carts that move materials through the center replaced nearly 2,400 static pallet locations to hold inventory.

Workstations were also made mobile, putting them on wheels and adding wireless communication. “People can move to the job instead of waiting for the job to come to them,” says Cox.

All told, the improvements to processes reduced inventory by 44%. In addition, by moving to a pull environment, where kits are put together only as needed, rather than put together in advance, the facility has gone from staging up to 282 kits at a time to just 36.

Improved safety
Improved safety was also a factor in the design of the new facility.

At the dock, a weather shield was installed to keep out weather and debris to maintain a clean working environment. In addition, a dock locking system was installed. Once a trailer is locked in place, it can’t pull away until an operator releases it from the inside the building.

The wheeled carts are adjustable so that workers can load them at an ergonomic height.

A third goal was to reduce the noise level in the center. “We wanted to operate at 70 decibles,” says Cox. To get there, Lockheed installed a specially-designed rubber-coated chain conveyor that reduces noise. While the conveyor in the old facility could be heard from outside the building, today, operators can carry on a conversation with co-workers in front of the AS/RS.

Finally, visual controls were also implemented. Color-coded traffic cones are placed on boxes to signify the status of a box, identifying, for instance, whether it has been accepted and is available for putaway; is on hold; has been rejected; or is ready for shipment.

The facility went live last summer. Six months into the operation, Cox says his team measures by more than just improved cycle time and reduced inventory. “The best complement we’ve had came from a director who told us that no one knew we’d even done the project,” Cox says. “We made this move without skipping a beat. It was seamless.”

Systems suppliers
AS/RS: viastore, 616-656-8876, http://www.viastore.com/home_inc.html 
Conveyor: Designed Conveyor Systems, 615-377-9774, http://www.designed-conveyor.com/
Narrow Aisle, Man-up lift truck: Raymond, 607-656-2311, http://www.raymondcorp.com/ 
Fork lifts: Hyster, 800-497-8371, http://www.hyster.com 
Automatic data collection: Motorola http://www.motorola.com 
Rack Storage: Frazier Industrial, 800-614-4162, http://www.frazier.com
Overhead crane: J. Herbert Corp. http://www.jherbertcorp.com/
Vertical storage shuttle: Kardex Remstar, http://www.kardexremstar.com/default.aspx

This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of MMH.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


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