Aerospace & Defense • March 13, 2018

Virgin Orbit Takes Off With MES

iBase-t Experts

As the scope of manufacturing software expands, the simultaneous need for faster implementation and quicker return on investment revealing itself. Our latest case study examines the steps taken by Virgin Orbit to transform a paper based environment into a connected, digital enterprise, how this change was implemented within time and budget, and how deploying a new MES can impact an organization’s return on investment substantially.

Virgin Orbit Advances the Space Arena

Virgin Galactic captured the world’s imagination with their newest development of commercial spacecraft. Their technology intends to provide suborbital space flights to tourists. Under the same Virgin Group umbrella, the innovated company, Virgin Orbit, has announced a launch of an assembly of satellites associated with commercial, research, and governmental projects. With their latest LauncherOne program initiative, small satellites were sent into space under the wing of the modified 747 aircraft.  

Manufacturing Searches for Improvement

The increasing number of satellites connected to the already large program and Virgin Orbit’s aggressive deadlines brought to light many challenges inherent in discrete complex manufacturing operations. As the processes progressed, work-in-process units needed to begin to incorporate engineering changes. At Virgin Orbit, as in many other complex manufacturing operations, engineers must be involved in material review processes, dispositions, and rework instructions throughout every step. All the while, management must stay on top of as-designed equals as-built validation, while continuing to achieve comprehensive change traceability, deviations, and approvals from one end of the supply chain to the other

The MES Solution: Digitizing a Paper-Based Environment

To meet these challenges, iBase-t’s Solumina MES platform managed Virgin Orbit’s manufacturing floor and provided support for their intensive prototype to production ramp-up. Solumina Process Planning, Shop Floor Execution and Shop Floor Quality modules were deployed without need for reconfiguration or customization.

The implemented technologies aided in digitizing the paper based environment, removing the labor and time intensive components of the system – the benefits exponential. For the first time, production operations across multiple systems and business divisions were fully synchronized with real-time visibility across the supply chain and all reports for planned, built, and maintained could be easily collected. Internet connected machinery was leveraged for production process monitoring.

Andrzej Goryca, the Senior Manufacturing Systems Manager at Virgin Orbit, will deliver a webinar this coming month to discuss the project rollout and the many lessons that the company learned along the way. During the seminar, Goryca hopes to detail how iBase-t assisted with correctly defining the initial scope of the project, how quickly the company went to market with constant real world feedback, and how the project team establishment lead them to implementation success. According to Goryca, together, the teams cultivated an executive sponsorship, establishing credibility for the rollout of an ambitious, yet successful, technology undertaking.

On-Demand Webinar: Virgin Orbit