WARTON, England—BAE Systems is in the process of building an aerospace “factory of the future” at its plant here that assembles the Typhoon fighter jet. When it ramps up later this year, the retooled facility will feature state-of-the-art assembly tools and systems, including collaborative robots.
“Our engineers will soon benefit from collaborative robots designed to support people with complex manufacturing of combat aircraft,” says Dave Holmes, manufacturing director at BAE Systems’ air business. “We’ve only really started to scratch the surface of what automation can do in industry and some really exciting possibilities are emerging as we enter the fourth industrial revolution.
“Cobotics is the next, natural step in developing manufacturing technology that will allow for a blending of skilled roles,” explains Holmes. “We envisage that people will make larger, more strategic decisions while delegating the repetitive and intricate aspects of production to a robot.
“Robots will recognize operators and automatically load optimized individual profiles using wireless technology,” claims Holmes. “[The system] will also automatically deliver tailored cues and instructions, suitable for their level of expertise, to guide them through practical tasks. This will allow employees to work at a greater pace, with increased accuracy.
“Through [advanced] technology, automation will empower employees to work safely at greater speed and with maintained accuracy, leading to increased productivity and quality,” Holmes points out. “Workstations will be outfitted with a range of digital technology, and robots will work safely and seamlessly alongside humans building cutting-edge combat aircraft.
“Software will connect technologies through the workstation and output manufacturing data that will help engineers analyze and improve manufacturing processes,” adds Holmes.