RICHMOND, Va. –
Defense Logistics Agency Aviation awarded a $16.48 million contract June 17 to help the Navy automate landing gear repairs at Fleet Readiness Center Southwest in San Diego.
The contract, written by DLA Aviation’s Industrial Plant Equipment Services Division, consists of six, five-axis machining centers and a pallet system, that together, form an integrated manufacturing cell.
Gabriel Draguicevich, the New Technology Division director at FRCSW said there were multiple reasons for the new acquisition.
“The complex geometry of landing gear requires multiple set-ups and that can take more time than the actual machining operations for the parts,” said Draguicevich. “The complex and simple parts required five-sided machining and multiple operations. Our existing machines were proving to be inefficient and creating floor space limitations.”
On a project this large, there is a lot of preparatory work to be done, work that started three years ago when the Navy submitted the requirement, said David O’Donnell, IPES program manager.
Why so long? According to Jamie Summe, the DLA Aviation contracting officer who worked the purchase and award, the normal length of the acquisition process for a machine purchase in the IPES Division is three to five years. She said they were able to decrease the process for six machining centers, a pallet handling system, turnkey services, programming, post processors, foundation, fixturing and tooling. Defining these complex specifications took special skills to integrate all the components. Each machine and system must fit together, like a puzzle, to move maintenance material along a pallet system to move parts from process to process.
The supplier, DMG-Mori, USA, will design and build the machines in Germany, where IPE quality technical specialists will inspect them before shipment to the FRCSW customer in San Diego.
Summe said she received the requirement last September and it is the most critical and complex IPES contract to date. There was extensive specification development and review with both the customer and supplier.
“The DLA team convened quickly to meet the urgent need, collaborating to ensure the requirement was defined and error free in a time sensitive environment,” she said. “This purchase is different than any other IPE awards because instead of a single machine, this requirement is for multiple customized machines and systems that must cohesively work together as one.” The delivery of an operational system is scheduled for March 2022.
Draguicevich said by making this a consolidated acquisition, they are buying more capability at one time. The machines are “all-in-one” with milling, turning and grinding capabilities.
With a single integrated cell, FRCSW personnel will combine 11 machining operations into a single set-up and decrease over 80 hours of set-up time down to six hours. Cost avoidance for set-ups, computer numerical control programming, elimination of manual machine wakeup/warmup function and various other current requirements will exceed $2 million dollars annually.
“Integrated systems of this type are standard industry best practice. Standardized tooling and fixturing will be used on multiple machines,” he said. “The pallet system will not only move the landing gear structure along the repair process, automatically performing required set ups, it will also manage the parts inventory.”
Performing set-ups, as well as automating loading and unloading of the machines will accelerate the repair throughput. According to Draguicevich, knowing exactly when a machine will finish a project will increase the mechanics’ understanding of the integrated cell’s capacity and lead to more schedule transparency.
The integrated manufacturing cell will repair landing gear systems on the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet multirole combat jet, as well as the E2 Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft and C2 Greyhound cargo aircraft, all of which are critical to the success of naval aviation. The system will also be strategically positioned to accomplish F-35 landing gear workload, if needed.
“Not only will the manufacturing cell process landing gear, it will also be able to machine other structural and repair parts made of steel, aluminum and titanium,” said Draguicevich.
According to Marc Wilts, who is a quality assurance and equipment specialist working in the IPES Division, the contract was written as a “turnkey operation,” meaning that the supplier will be responsible for engineering, designing, building, integrating and installing the equipment.
“We will be working closely with the supplier, to ensure technical specifications are met with the equipment before and after installation,” said Wilts.