First for software, agile is a boon to manufacturing

The company as a team focused on solving the most challenging problems in the initial design phase with Sprints and then moved to smaller groups for detailed design efforts. They used quick response loops in simulation and testing to improve the design before going into production.

This focus on agile development and production helped Zipline move its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to commercialized and scaled operations in Ghana and Rwanda in less than 18 months, a timeline that included six months of hardcore development, another six months of prototype testing. . , And the final six months in design validation and engineering verification.

“In general, the idea of ​​focusing resources on a specific issue in Sprints is something we’re taking back from the software world to the hardware world,” says Devin Williams, chief mechanical engineer at the UAV production platform at Zipline. “One of the things we do really well is find the least practical product and then prove it in the field.”

Using the agile process allows Zipline to focus on making changes to a product that quickly addresses customer needs while maintaining high reliability. The San Francisco Bay Area Company now has distribution centers in North Carolina and Arkansas, another in Salt Lake City, and will soon launch in new markets in Japan as well as across Africa.

Zipline is not alone. With decades of history, from startups to manufacturers, companies are turning to agile design, development and production to create innovative products at low cost. Airplane maker By Aerospace has cut costs by more than half in the development of its electric airplane and accelerated the pace of its prototype. And Boeing used agile processes to win the TX twin-pilot trainer jet project with the US Air Force.

Overall, applying agile methods should be a priority for every manufacturer. For aerospace and defense companies, whose complex projects typically follow the long-term development horizon of the falls, the industry needs agile design and development to move forward in the era of urban air mobility and the future of space exploration.

The evolution of traditional product design

While agile production originated in Toyota’s Canban method of only-in-time auto manufacturing developed in the 1940s, modern agile frameworks for development were explored by programmers in the late 1990’s to create better software. Instead of building a “waterfall” development pipeline that involves specific phases, such as design and testing, agile development focuses on functional production, minimal practical production, as soon as possible in the process, and then repeat on technology. In 2000, a group of 17 developers drafted the Agile Manifesto, focusing on working software, individuals and interactions, and customer collaboration.

Over the past decade, Agile Software Development has focused on DevOps- “development and operation” – creating interdisciplinary teams and cultures for application development. Likewise, design companies and product manufacturers have taken agility lessons and reconnected them into the product life cycle. As a result, manufacturing now consists of small teams that repeat on products, feed real-world lessons in the supply chain, and use software tools to speed up collaboration.

In the aerospace and defense industry, known for the complexity of its products and systems, delivers tremendous benefits. While working on the development of the TX two-seat jet trainer, Boeing is committed to developing agile design and manufacturing processes, which has resulted in a half-program cost increase for the U.S. Air Force, a 75% increase in initial prototype quality, half-time software development, And 80% reduction in assembly time.

Paul Niwald, Boeing’s TX Program Manager, says, “We’ve adopted a smart mindset and block plan approach to hardware and software integration.” “This allows us to release the software every eight weeks and test it at the system level to validate our requirements. In doing so, in such a disciplined manner આવ on frequency તે it allowed us to reduce our software efforts by up to 50%. ”

In the end, the TX went from design to production of the “product-representation jet” in three years. This is a major departure from the early development of traditional aircraft programs, which use waterfall development in the early design and development stages and may require a decade of development.

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This content was created by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial staff of MIT Technology Review.

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