The ongoing F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program is unprecedented not just in the complexity of the aircraft itself, but also in the complexity of its development program. Led by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. (Bethesda, MD), dozens of companies from around the world are involved in the effort, which includes both an all-digital design and a computer-modeled manufacturing component to ensure efficient final assembly. The program marked the flight of its first operational aircraft in December. At present, Lockheed Martin expects to build some 4,500 of the aircraft in the coming years.

As one of Lockheed Martin’s principal partners in the F-35 effort, BAE Systems (Farnborough, England) is responsible for building a number of major structural components and subsystems. These include the aircraft’s aft fuselage and tail, both of which are built at the company’s assembly plant in Samlesbury, England.

Although BAE has decades of experience in the aerospace sector, the demands of the F-35 required that the company upgrade its manufacturing information systems to keep pace with the deadlines and other contractual requirements of the F-35 program. As part of this effort, the company implemented a host of process-management software products from Visiprise Inc. (Atlanta).

“Visiprise worked closely with BAE Systems and other vendors over a 4-year period,” says Chris Wren, JSF site-specific solutions lead at BAE Systems. “I don’t believe we have ever achieved such a rapid development schedule on any other project.... For everyone involved, this has been a most impressive solution.”

Among other Visiprise products, BAE Systems’ Samlesbury plant is now using Visiprise manufacturing change management software, a documentation tool that routes, audits and monitors each design and manufacturing change from initiation through incorporation into final product build.

BAE Systems is also using Visiprise process planning software, which defines the manufacturing and assembly process for everything from the machining and fabrication of parts to the building of major assemblies; bill of material management software to manage and generate accurate material requirement plans; and nonconformance management tools to manage incoming and in-process nonconforming materials from their initial detection, through preliminary review and final disposition.

In addition, Visiprise electronic work instructions software provides standardized, digital work instructions, reducing hours-per-unit, scrap and rework during production.

Ultimately, by using Visiprise’s management tools, BAE Systems is able to conduct “design intent” checks throughout the manufacturing process to ensure that all of its F-35 Lightning II components are built to specification.

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