Jefferson, T., Benardos, P., and Ratchev, S., "Reconfigurable Assembly System Design Methodology: A Wing Assembly Case Study," SAE Int. J. Mater. Manf. 9(1):31-48, 2016, doi:10.4271/2015-01-2594.
Current assembly systems that deal with large, complex structures present a number of challenges with regard to improving operational performance. Specifically, aerospace assembly systems comprise a vast array of interrelated elements interacting in a myriad of ways, resulting in a deeply complex process that requires a multi-disciplined team of engineers. The current approach to ramp-up production rate involves building additional main assembly fixtures which require large investment and lead times up to 24 months. Within Airbus Operations Ltd there is a requirement to improve the capacity and flexibility of assembly systems, thereby reducing non-recurring costs and time-to-market.Recent trends to improve manufacturing agility advocate Reconfigurable Assembly Systems (RAS) as a viable solution. Yet, adding reconfigurability to assembly systems further increases both the operational and design complexity. Despite the increase in complexity for reconfigurable assembly, few formal methodologies or frameworks exist specifically to support the design of RAS.In this paper, a novel RAS design methodology is specified to address the design complexity. The methodology is a holistic, hierarchical approach to system design which integrates reconfigurability principles, Axiomatic Design and Design Structure Matrices. A wing assembly case study is used to illustrate how the methodology translates reconfigurability requirements into a system that is scalable and flexible from the outset. The resultant reconfigurable cell design assembles the wing's spars and ribs with ramp-up capability from 40 to 100 aircraft per month. Cell designs are presented as CATIA models. The data used is CAD data from a current single aisle wing. Production data is sourced from current single aisle assembly.