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How to Make Process Knowledge Usable and Accessible - Case Study

In today’s manufacturing environment, it’s difficult to meet production and quality expectations with machine operators having various skill
levels.  When part measurement information is supplied to experienced operators, they can use that information to make process
corrections.  But less experienced operators struggle with this task, requiring engineers and supervisors to spend more time supporting the
floor or risk confusion, inconsistent quality and production loss.  And this problem is magnified as the complexity of the manufacturing
process increases.  

Organizations need a system for analyzing measurement data and converting it to concrete machine adjustments that operators can use.  
The SAE International recognizes this issue and added a new section called “Organizational Knowledge” in the AS9100 Rev. D Aerospace
Standard.  This standard addresses the need to manage the accumulative knowledge gained by the organization, to ensure it can achieve
process conformity for products and services.   

This paper describes how one company resolved the process adjustment issue.
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Kemlab Production Components, a division of Kemco Aerospace Manufacturing is an advanced contract manufacturing company.  With
multiple redundant machining centers across three divisions, Kemco Aerospace is among the largest independent aerospace machining
shops in the United States.  They specialize in many aspects of aerospace manufacturing, including contract manufacturing, high volume
machining, quick-turn, spares, complex assembly and prototyping.

One product line consists of parts used in modern sporting rifles.  The production volume for these parts is high enough to support multiple
machining cells with several operators.   The parts contain numerous machined surfaces that require multiple tools, and both the operators
and the area supervisors struggled to interpret the inspection results to make machine corrections.  The CMM inspection reports are long
(over one hundred dimensions) and the manufacturing process is complex.  This often led to lost production due to inconsistent process
corrections and invalid machine adjustments.  Additional hours were consumed by engineering and management in supporting the
production staff.

Through research and networking, Kemlab Production Components discovered a software product called Reaction Plan Manager++.   This
software analyzes the CMM part measurements and automatically interprets and displays them as specific machine instructions to adjust
the process in real-time.   The area supervisors and operators can then follow these directions.  The software is the equivalent of having an
engineer on the floor 24/7.  Kemlab purchased and installed Reaction Plan Manager ++, eliminating the problem and increasing productivity
on the floor as well as reducing scrap.
How it Works

Kemlab Production Components uses Ziess CMMs which are located in an area away from the manufacturing floor.  Two software packages
were loaded onto each inspection station - Reaction Plan Manager++ and QC-CALC Real-Time software.   QC-CALC Real-Time is statistics
software that collects the part measurement data from the CMM and transfers it to Reaction Plan Manager++ for process analysis.   
Engineers at Kemlab Production Components configured the software by developing “reaction plans” for each part’s manufacturing
process.  The reaction plan handles the data analysis for that part and contains the instructions the operator needs to effect a positive
change.   Once released to production, the software monitors the CMM system waiting for new part measurement data.  

When the CMM technician measures a part, the software recognizes the data set and pushes it out to an operator’s station, where it executes
an analysis and displays the appropriate adjustment instructions.  
Operator Station

Data flows from an inspection station to an operator station, where it is utilized.  This solution is scalable, allowing you to link multiple
operator stations to one inspection station.  There are no printed reports, no waiting for the inspection equipment resources to be available.  
The part data is filtered at the inspection station so specific operator stations only receive data related to the machines in that area.  With a
click of a button the operator station user has access to process control information for each machine in his/her area.

Kemlab Production Components decided to implement this operator station feature by providing a tablet to the area supervisors with
Reaction Plan Manager++ installed and configured as an operator station.  The area supervisor carries the tablet to any CNC machine in
their area and opens the latest reaction plan to get that machine’s adjustment instructions.  
Process Knowledge Storage

Implementing the Reaction Plan Manager++ software solution allowed the engineers to determine in advance the appropriate reaction to part
measurement data based on engineering principles and process knowledge.  For example, assume an engineer responsible for a
machining process knows that a specific measurement dimension will control the cutter comp setting for a tool.  Based on process
knowledge, it’s understood that the correction should be half the deviation amount and the sign opposite of the measurement deviation.  
Reaction Plan Manager++ captures this thinking in the solution and stores it as part of the reaction plan.  When invoked, the reaction plan
applies this process knowledge to the new measurement data to tell the operator how to react.  As the process evolves, the solution can be
updated to yield the optimal reaction.

The reaction plan for each part in the manufacturing process can include a variety of adjustment techniques.  Most involve controlling the
process through tool wear adjustments.  Other adjustments are more complex.  For example, one tool adjustment may affect several other
tools, requiring adjustments in them as well.   The reaction plan for that part has the ability to calculate the adjustments for all the linked tools
in one analysis.  These adjustment techniques and calculations are stored in the program for everyone in the organization to use.
Continuous Training

The greatest benefit of implementing the Reaction Plan Manager++ software is the sharing and distribution of process correction
information.  Area supervisors get immediate information regarding the manufacturing process as soon as a part is measured.  Engineering
can update the Reaction Plan Manager++ solution as the process evolves without training each individual operator.   The adjustments simply
appear in the reaction plan instructions.   

Implementing the Reaction Plan Manager++ software solution for the firearm components at Kemlab Production Components reduced
machine down time and improved quality by providing process control information.  The software gave the engineering staff a tool to capture
and share process knowledge in a clear consistent way which significantly reduced the amount of time needed to support the manufacturing
floor.  Area supervisors have more time to focus on managing their department instead of consuming time figuring out how to help machine
operators make adjustments.