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Monday, September 15, 2008

Design Engineers, I.T. and Crowdsourcing

The September issue of M.E Magazine carries an interesting article about the future of Design Engineering, the tools used and the nature of their work environment.

It talks of the ability to prepare CAD drawings by simply sketching the design drawing on to the screen, an activity we are more comfortable with, instead of using mouse clicks and command line to do the same.

It also talks about the ability to design a product by holding, touching and moving it while designing even while it exists only virtually. It would be achieved by developing effective Haptic technology [Wii remote and force-feedback devices being the initial iterations of this technology].

But what really got me all excited is the concept of developing a collaborative environment whereby the Design Engineers, separated by vast geographical distances can come together to form a team on an ad-hoc basis, develop the product and once ready for production, disperse to join up on to other such ad-hoc design teams. By leveraging the power of I.T. solutions and connectivity provided by the Internet, such a team can be made possible for even the most complex of Engineering design projects. This concept of forming ad-hoc teams over a virtual environment to develop something and then sharing its profit without ever having to come coming face-to-face with each other is known as Crowdsourcing.

This system of collaboration, if successfully implemented can prove to be a boon for our countries R&D efforts, especially in the Defense sector. DRDO, is presently facing an acute shortage of manpower due to high attrition rate. As a result, quite a few of our country’s developmental programs are running behind schedule. In order to tide over this manpower shortage, DRDO has now decided to recruit people on a program-oriented contractual basis. This, it is expected, would address the manpower issue and help speed up our developmental programs.

I would not be very far off when saying that some of the finest individuals teaching in Universities abroad happen to be from India. As professors, they are entitled to go on Sabbatical for a couple of years [ball park figure]. Having lived abroad for a significant time, they may not be very open to the idea of coming back to work in India even if they wish to give back to the country [different work culture and red-tapism being the major reasons].

By developing an effective system of Crowdsourcing for Engineers, DRDO should be able to tap into this vast pool of brilliant minds who could be employed to be part of our developmental programs. By involving them in the program, not only would we be able to engage the best minds in our programs, but also get back our schedule on track to achieve our targets of excellence.

You may read the full article here

design futures


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kolkata IndiBlogger Meet 2008

Kolkata Blogger Meet 2008 IndiBlogger will drop anchor at Kolkata with their extremely popular Blogger meet sessions. The meet is tentatively scheduled to be held of the 21st of September [as of 14th September, venue yet to be announced]. If you are as passionate about blogging as the people organizing it and would like to meet and hang out with other such like-minded people, then make it a point to attend the meet. You do need to confirm your participation online beforehand though.

Indiblogger is an online community of Indian Bloggers [or blogs of Indian interest]. The people behind the site have been organizing such offline meets across the country for some time now. Some of their earlier meets were held at Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune among others.

Though I haven’t quite attended one of these meets myself, going by all reports [and media coverage it receives] it sounds like a real fun meet to attend. If you are in Kolkata on that day and looking forward to do something interesting, then you might want to check it out.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Create a free mobile blog with your own domain name using Mofuse

If you are accessing this blog from a mobile phone, then you might want to access the mobile version of my blog – If you have an existing blog, then you can make it easy to access through a mobile phone using Mofuse.

Mofuse is a free service that will optimize your existing blog to make it suitable for viewing through a mobile phone. Registration is a simple quickie affair. On successful registration you would get an address that looks like, where example is what you choose as your subdomain while registering. So far so good.

If you have your own domain name, then Mofuse allows you to use it along with your mobile blog. Please note that though you will use your own domain name, while registering, you must enter a suitable * name – it will be used later when you are setting up your domain name with the mobile blog.

Once registered when you go to your control panel, look at the bottom left corner and you will find your mobile blog listed.

Mofuse mobile site

Mofuse custom domain name

Clicking on it will open a page that lets you customize your mobile blog. At the top left corner you will find the, Custom Domain link – click on it.

In the page that opens up, enter the domain name along with the desired sub-domain you want to associate with the mobile blog. I used m as the sub-domain and entered it accordingly.

custom domain name with mofuse

Look below and you will find the instruction to add a CNAME value to your domain records. Note it down and you may now log out.

Mofuse CNAME value

Now go to your DNS Nameserver control panel and add the CNAME value for the domain name. Once it has been added, you may have to wait up to 48 hours for your mobile blog to be accessible.

DNS Nameserver CNAME value for Mofuse

Once accessible you could let people know about it so that if they access your blog from their mobiles they can view a mobile-phone optimized version of your blog. Mofuse recently made all the feature of their paid version accessible in the free version too. Using these features you can also create pages for your mobile blog, independent of your existing blog.  Play around with it to pimp up your mobile blog. If you are an iPhone user, the you may want to visit the iPhone optimized version of my blog –

You can also create and customize your mobile blog with the help of WireNode. What is unique about WireNode is that you can create a full standalone mobile blog with it.

However it does not allow you to use your domain name. Your mobile site will get an address like My mobile blog created with Wirenode – Haven’t worked much on it. Just a kludge job.

Hope you found it useful.


Going through gazillions of blogs and sites, I found that I posses no new insight on the GBrowser. So no re-inventing the wheel. But I did come across this site which has themes for the beautifying Chrome. You may get it here – FreeChromeThemes.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Get a free Game CD from

Free Zapak Game CD

Zapak Gaming, owned by the Ambani is giving away free CDs of their newest online game game – some racing game it appears. Go ahead and order your copy. Will reach your place in 10-15 days [so they say]. Offer valid only in India.

Thanks Manish.



P.S.: If you have subscribed to my blog’s feeds and find that it is occasionally re-sending you some old, already received posts, then please do let me know. Though I am not sure what is causing it, I would try to figure it out.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Manufacturing 03 – The Digital Thread

Previous parts – Part 1, Part 2

The Digital Trail

CFD model of the F-35 Joint Strike fighter

The need to be provided with easily comprehended, accurate data in a timely manner is of absolute imperative when on a developmental pursuit of the magnitude of the Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] program. The scale of operation of the Joint Strike Fighter program is such that it is bound to generate a gargantuan amount of data that needs to be accessed by hundreds of concerned individuals situated in disparate geographical locations.

Equally important is the fact that this data must be accessed in a manner that is easily comprehended by the seeker and it must leave no room for misinterpretation that could possibly result in costly losses. Any change in the value or nature of the data must be reflected accurately and instantly all across wherever that data is accessed so that it can be taken into account while taking decisions. Efficient management of the generated data and maintaining its integrity is thus of paramount importance in ensuring the success of the JSF program. Taking this end into consideration, the data management and transfer is handled by what has now come to be known as The Digital Trail.

The digital thread is in essence an interlinking arrangement where the suite of software solutions being used for the Joint Strike Fighter program have access to a common, central information database from which it can both retrieve and submit data which can then be accessed by the other softwares as and when needed by them. Data generated at each step of the developmental process in the JSF program is automatically updated into the database, that then makes it available for access by anybody who seeks the data. This digital information database ensures that any change in value of the data is duly and accurately reflected at all points of access. Thus the seeker receives up-to-date and accurate information, that enables him/her to take the appropriate decision involving that data. By linking the various softwares involved, it is possible to transfer the same generated data from one software package to another. Thus the name Digital Trail. Digitized data also ensures data integrity. This data that is generated by the design engineers would be used through the entire life-cycle of the aircraft. The goal is to reuse the original data without having to reproduce it manually that would increase the chances of errors creeping in.

The backbone of this Digital Thread is the Product Lifecycle Management [PLM] software solution deployed to handle the generated data and co-ordinate a collaborating network on a global scale. It has been estimated that the approximately 1.5 million parts aircraft has generated around 20 Terabytes of data till date and is only expected to increase with time, thus requiring a robust scalable platform. This increasing product database will have to be managed through the estimated 50 year lifecycle of the aircraft. To manage this data, the JSF team had acquired the Metaphase Enterprise Software developed by the Structural Dynamics Research Corporation [SDRC]. This has since been upgraded to the latest Teamcenter 2005 Product Lifecycle Management Software developed by the Unigraphics Corporation [which acquired SDRC and renamed the product to Teamcenter Enterprise, which has since itself been acquired by Siemens]. The Joint Strike Fighter program currently uses around 13500 licenses of the Teamcenter solution.

The objectives of the PLM software in the JSF program is even more stringent and challenging considering that it has to handle data requisition of partners from different countries. While providing them with the data round the clock 24/7, the software ensures that the data provided pertains only to that part of the program in which the partner is involved and must be in conformance with US regulatory laws like the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) as also protection of Intellectual Property Rights [IP].

Yet another challenge the PLM software addresses is coordinating the manufacturing of the various sub-assemblies at different locations which would then be brought to the Final Assembly and Checkout [FACO] line at Forth Worth, Texas and in future Italy and UK where FACO lines are proposed to be set up. It results in quicker assembly time as they are being assembled in tandem as opposed to sequential assembly. This is a marked deviation from the earlier practice of assembling the whole aircraft from start to finish in one location. It drastically increases the number of parameters the software has to monitor and keep track of while ensuring the smooth functioning of the process. Efficient and effective interaction with the supply chain to provide the right part at the right time in the right quantity at the right location has to be effectively tackled by the PLM solution. Some of the other tasks the solution performs include managing multiple bills-of-materials, material specifications, parts catalogs, detailed product geometry created by multiple computer-aided design (CAD) systems among others.

Such requirements, when there is a large amount of overlapping of interests, demands a PLM solution that performs at the absolute best. Effective use of the PLM solution through the developmental phase of the aircraft brought about a saving of around $62 million USD. It would not be inappropriate to say that the JSF program is changing the way one would expect PLM to function and lessons learned here would find application in PLM solution deployment in other industries.

The aircraft has been designed completely in solid model using the Catia V4 and V5 packages developed by Dassault Systèmes which were run on Silicon Graphics Octane2 and Silicon Graphics Fuel workstations. Silicon Graphics Visual Workstations along with Onyx2 systems and Origin 2000 servers were used for simulation and analysis. Besides achieving an accurate, detailed representation of the aircraft to be built, this also ensured that each and every point on a designed part has been referenced accurately with respect to the other points on the part in a 3-D space. The relative positions of each and every point of the part is available in a digital format. This helps CNC-controlled machine tools to accurately orient the tool with reference to the component surface. As a result, parts can be accurately machined to extremely close tolerances using the CNC machine tools interfaced with the software. This would not have been easily achieved earlier. The high quality of machining achieved is quite effectively reflected by the fact that almost no 'traveled work' is needed on a part, i.e., a part that is manufactured and brought to the final assembly location does not need a rework at the final assembly plant before mating it with other components. This digital definition of the product will then be used through the entire lifecycle of the product – tooling, manufacturing, assembling as well as support.

Catia Netaphase Interface [CMI] developed by T-Systems

Yet another evidence of the Digital Thread and its associated benefits - the JSF team directly transfers data from its Teamcenter Enterprise product management system into CATIA and vice versa. This enables data generated by Teamcenter to be visually represented with ease in CATIA without resorting to cumbersome, time consuming, manual data transfer. This also aids the accuracy of data transferred. This seamless integration and transfer of data has been made possible using the commercially available Catia Metaphase Interface [CMI] system developed by T-Systems, which has since been customized to cater to this program.

The Virtual Product Development Initiative [VPDI] of Lockheed Martin aimed to create a complete virtual environment for designing and testing the aircraft. Its objective was to create a platform where design testing and analysis of the aircraft could be performed in a virtual environment, based on which subsequent design iterations too could be made and tested in the same environment. This would do away with the need to create a physical model to test the initial iterations and thus push the creation of the physical model right to the end when in the process of final design validation. It aimed to provide everyone involved in the product definition with the relevant information and latest version of sought data and a platform to collaborate their efforts without being hindered by the distance of their physical location.

It has acquired licenses to use Deneb Robotics Inc's simulation software to test and validate its manufacturing and maintenance process in a virtual environment before implementing it on the floor. This virtual environment is being used to simulate the different aspects of JSF design, manufacturing and support which allows the team to detect any flaws and bottlenecks in the process that can be sorted out before being actually physically set up.

By interfacing it with Catia, it achieves a seamless process of both design and process testing as the designed models can now be easily transferred from Catia into Deneb's solution and its result transferred back into Catia for action to be taken if necessary. Lockheed Martin says that this has reduced cost for production, development and support by 70% to 80% in some areas as also the total cycle time.

Some other software solutions deployed by Lockheed Martin as part of the VPDI initiative include Engineering Animation's [since renamed to Demonstratives Inc.] VisFly solution, that let its Engineers situated in geographically separated locations to collaborate with one another using virtual models in real-time. It also used the company's VisMockUp and VP/Sequence solutions to evaluate models and analyze the parts manufacturing and installation.

NGRAIN's 3-D models being used for mantainance tasks This digital thread is being tapped into for preparing an accurate, standardized training and maintenance system for the aircraft. As part of the Joint Strike Fighter's Autonomic Logistics Information Systems (“ALIS”) program, NGRAIN was awarded a contract is to provide them with a customized version of its 3-dimensional performance support solution. Using this software, any fault detection or repair work that needs to be carried out can be conveniently marked on a virtual 3-D model of the aircraft, which can then be sent over to the concerned personnel instantly for corrective action to be taken. It would be of no consequence even if the person to whom the information is being transferred to is located across the continent. Thus one would be able to completely do away with the cumbersome, time consuming and error-prone practice of filling up paper reports that 3-D model developed using NGRAIN's solution needs to be forwarded manually to achieve the same end result. This solution would be customized for installing on to portable devices carried by the aircraft maintenance personals, thus giving them easy access. Similarly, aircraft assemblers would be provided with a 3-dimensional representation of that portion of the aircraft that he would be working on along with all the necessary information neatly represented on it. This would greatly simplify the worker's understanding of the instruction, resulting in improvement of his work performance. The ALIS program is expected to reduce support cost by 20% compared to practices adopted for legacy aircrafts. Implementing the Autonomic Logistics Information Systems would also reduce training time of personnel's by 60%, thanks to the easy to understand 3-dimensional training system developed using NGRAIN's solutions.

The program has additionally deployed Visiprise's process-management and manufacture change management solutions in order to cater to the demands of the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Lockheed Martin recently awarded SAP AG to provide its ERP solution for the JSF program. This task was earlier being handled by its own custom-made Production & Inventory Optimization System (PIOS). SAP's solution would offer better integration of the ERP with the digital thread than its current system.

Even the task of painting the aircraft body would be making use of the digital thread. Using Delmia's simulation software [Delmia has since been acquired by Dassault Systèmes], CTA Inc, the system integrator appointed for the job, intends to program and simulates the paint job process of the aircraft before giving instructions to the machine. Based on aircraft geometry and plant layout, it would check for any potential obstructions in the arm's trajectory and optimize the path followed to apply an even, good quality coat of paint without wastage. The simulation would be able to take into account multiple robotic arms, use of fixtures and material handling devices that would be used in the painting process. Delmia's software suite consists of the IGRIP resource modeling and simulation software with UltraPaint option. The IGRIP is also being used to simulate the clamping and joining of drilled components in the assembly of the aircraft. The latest Catia models are made available to these simulation solutions to generate the most accurate results.

The Joint Strike fighter development program employs a host of software solution performing various tasks. By performing major tasks and operations in a virtual environment and linking the numerous softwares involved to share data among one another, the JSF program develops a truly unique platform for product development and data sharing.


PS: I am in the process of compiling my sources. Will post it as soon as I complete it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Success has thousand fathers..err mothers too

President of India Pratibha Patil greeting Abhinav Bindra

The other day while watching telly, I had tuned in to the News channel, when they were covering Abhinav Bindra’s meeting with our Prez. Posing for the photographers, the lady [our honorable (lol!) President] held  up the medal in front of her with a silly grin plastered on the face. My first reaction – “How dare you bitch!” “Ma’am, you haven’t earned the right to hold the sacred medallion. Please do not desecrate it by touching”.

On way to the college, I see many a walls plastered with posters of sundry politicians sharing poster real estate with the country’s toast of the season. Most did not even bother to use a recent, much older looking, picture of the guy. Instead, what we see is a scared looking pre-pubescent kid being towered over by an evil-looking, stupidly grinning criminal-turned-politico on those posters.

The National Rifle Association of India holds press conferences to proudly announce how their protege has done what no other sports association [save Hockey, which is a team sport] has been able to do in 61 years of our independence. This is the same Association which has been unable to ease the import process of bullets needed by our shooters. As a result our shooters, it is known, practice with just one-third the number of bullets, their International counterparts use. It is the same Association that refused to send our shooters for extended training camps to Germany, which undoubtedly posses much better training infrastructure. Yet when it came to basking in the laurels of a victory, the Association is the first one to take credit. They very conveniently  chose to omit mentioning that the victory is a result of largely self-funded efforts. Abhinav comes from an affluent family which enabled him to pour in his own resources for his training [his folks built him his own Olympic standard shooting range for unhindered practice]. This, after the babus made him run pillar to post seeking funds and then refusing to pay anything more than a joke of an amount [SAI paid 15 lakhs, when he needed 2 crores for his new rifle, so said the TV report].

Government of states far and wide are clamoring to shower him with cash prizes for his Olympian efforts. Without grudging him even one bit of the prize money that has been announced, but the question that begs to be asked, is it of any significance to exhibit such monetary appreciation now that he is worth two crores.

This is nothing but a shameless, opportunistic, self-serving maneuver that politicians are resorting to in order to achieve their own populist ends. Where were they when Abhinav was seeking the much needed funds for his training. Why were no glittering ceremonies organized by a state to announce its support for the shooter. The answer is quite simple – no state came forward to support this shooter prior to his victory.

Would the same amount not be better spent ramping up the respective states sporting infrastructure which currently bear close resemblance to a rat hole. Why are they not using that money to fund the training of some very talented but unproven lad/lass who is sure to earn laurels for the country if properly guided. Players who in the distant past had rendered yeomen service to the country are now languishing in abject poverty [blessed are those who have passed through the pearly gates]. How about helping re-train that athlete who misses qualification/winning by 1/100th of the second – an outcome of immense talent practicing with pedestrian facilities.

These vermins care a damn about the people whose responsibility they have been entrusted with. But the moment they achieve something, they rush forward to associate themselves with them & their achievements telling anybody willing to listen how they have created a medal winner. We all like to associate ourselves with a winner – makes us feel like a winner ourselves, efforts notwithstanding.

Success has a thousand fathers…failure is an orphan.

How very true does this statement hold in our country.



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Manufacturing 02 - Lean Manufacturing

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assembly Fort Worth, Texas


The Joint Strike Fighter's press paraphernalia describes the aircraft's manufacturing and assembly in the following manner,

“The F-35 team is employing advanced digital design tools, assembly methods and highly accurate manufacturing machines to help the aircraft achieve its goals of affordability, quality and assembly speed. New milling machines, accurate to less than the width of a human hair, ensure that the F-35’s outer shape is exact and meets its advanced, all-aspect stealth requirements. Assembly time for an F-35 is planned to be less than half that of current-generation fighters.”

Any great designs are pretty much insignificant unless you successfully manufacture it according to design and are able to use it in accordance with its stated objective. Taking this view, it would not be hard to imagine that one of the major portions of the JSF program is the actual manufacturing of the aircrafts. Manufacturing these aircrafts would require the implementation of concepts and utilization of technology which till now were either never used or even if used definitely not at the scale it would be used here. Some of the noteworthy features seen in the design and manufacture of the F-35 – The Digital trail, Lean manufacturing, Laser positioning system etc.

Manufacturing these beauties poses additional challenges because of the need to source the assemblies and sub-assemblies from contractors from quite literally different parts of the world – from the companies operating in the respective partner countries. Co-ordinating and ensuring standards and compliance among these companies having disparate work culture is no mean feat and the JSF program will have to succeed in achieving it.

Lean manufacturing

In face of ever increasing pressure towards the optimization of the process chain - maximize productivity and minimize overhead expenditure, one concept that has found approval among planners is that of Lean Manufacturing [also referred to simply as Lean].

It essentially is a philosophy, a concept of manufacturing, that seeks to reduce wasteful practices [muda, muri and mura] in the Manufacturing process and helps improve the quality of the finished product [kaizen]. This concept finds its roots in the Toyota Production System [TPS] conceptualized by Sakichi Toyoda [and later formalized to a concrete set of guidelines by Taiichi Ohno] in the aftermath of World War II when scarcity of resources meant that use of available resources were to be optimized to the maximum extent possible. Thus Lean manufacturing addresses two most important aspects of a product – increased quality of the product at a reduced cost - quite often viewed as contradictory end goals.

The guiding principles of Lean Manufacturing are - Perfect first-time quality, Pull processing, Continuous improvement, Waste minimization, Flexibility, Establishing and maintaining a long term relationship with suppliers, Load leveling, Autonomation [smart automation], Production flow and Visual control.

The overall aim of Lean is to eliminate what it refers to as 8 wastes - overproduction, inventory, motion, waiting, defects, transportation, extra processing and underutilized people. These factors result in reduction of the overall quality associated with a product.

A guideline of Lean is to manufacture a product according to demand [pull] rather than any preset manufacturing targets [push]. This is to ensure prevention of over-production and thus its associated excesses.

Lean manufacturing proposes adoption of the Just-In-Time [JIT] concept of manufacturing. In this practice, the raw material needed to manufacture a certain product is made available at the moment production is to commence. There is no stocking of these raw materials for long period before the start of manufacturing. Buffer stock is made available for no more than two or three batches of production [kanban]. In fact, an ideal setup would see responsibility of raw material remaining with the suppliers right till the moment production begins. As a result, inventory, which accounts for a significant portion of expenditure, reduces greatly and consequently its associated costs.

Proper use of scheduling tools like Heijunka box would help reduce the possibility of unevenness in the production's scheduling and ensure a smooth, predictable production plan that is a lot easier to optimize and streamline.

Lean manufacturing is as much about human behavior, culture and their reactions as it is about methods of productions. For a successful implementation of Lean, it is essential that the human workforce is taken on board, convinced and trained [Senpai, Kohai & Sensai] to accept and adopt Lean as a way to improvement.

The Joint Strike Fighter team describes the manufacturing practices adopted for the F-35 as leaner-than-lean manufacturing. However, for all practical purposes, it would be safe to assume that it is Lean Manufacturing philosophy that they have strongly imbued in the F-35.

In in the 90s, Lockheed Martin had embarked upon a program surreptitiously named LM21 to seek and adopt Best Practice that would enable it to achieve Operating Excellence needed to successfully compete in the cut-throat defense market of the 21st century. One of the philosophies they zeroed in on was that of Lean Manufacturing. Though Lean had been in practice in Lockheed Martin earlier too, it had been restricted to small departmental level implementation, the results of which was therefore not optimum.

F-16 assembly line

The first large-scale implementation of this concept was to the manufacture and assembly of the F-16s, which then had been plagued with issues of quality control and delayed delivery schedules. Applying Lean Manufacturing concepts brought about some dramatic results – manufacturing costs reduced by 38%, inventory by 50%, defect rates fell to just 3.4 per plane and delivery time of an aircraft fell from 42 months to 21.5 months. As the assembly line of the F-16s had matured considerably by then, there were limitation of the extent to which changes could be made to it.

So quite naturally, when they won the contract for the design and manufacture of JSF, it would be expected of them to apply these principles to the best possible extent to leverage its benefits from the conceptual stage itself.

Lean principles that guides Lockheed Martin's JSF project include – Transparency, Process focus, instead of just Operation focus, Design for Manufacture and Assembly, Process control, JIT system and Work standardization.

Applying Lean, Lockheed Martin was able to reduce the floor space occupied by the F-16 assembly line by 60%, thus creating space for the manufacture and assembly of the F-35s without expanding [the F-16 line is expected to cease production by 2015, around the time F-35 production would be in full swing]. By applying Lean to the ALE-50 pylon program, Lockheed Martin was able to reduce product travel distance from 200 feet to 50 feet and time for manufacture from 177 hours to 34 hours.

The program is run by a series of Integrated Product Teams [IPTs]. Each team is made completely responsible for one portion of the aircraft. Think of it like a company setup for that one portion of the aircraft. The team is made up of members from the related partner companies for that portion with the head being selected from one of the principle partner companies – Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE. Thus the members think of the project, not just from the point of view of the parent company, but as their own personal project responsibility. However it must not be forgotten that any benefits derived for the portion will in turn be reflected favorably for the partner companies involved.

Problem resolution is done without any delay and at the lowest level possible. In the event of any problems faced by the process [scheduling, cost or process], that phase of the process is halted completely and not allowed to proceed before it as been resolved – even if it means the involvement of the interaction between two or more different IPTs.

Waste reduction and optimization can be seen in the tooling needed to make different but related products. Instead of using separate tools, use of modular flexible tools to perform the same function and also effect a cost saving of 30% on tooling over the traditional way.

Lockheed Martin continuously works with its suppliers of the F-35 JSF to improve and streamline the supply chain. It is done by means of events, training and planning that are regularly organized by Lockheed Martin. It partners with them to analyze and identify opportunities to eliminate waste and through it reduce time and cost and at the same time help them maintain adherence to set standards of the program.

The three variants of the F-35s would be assembled on a single assembly line, which would be able to manufacture either of the variants depending on the requirement of that variant [demonstrating the pull approach of manufacturing encouraged by Lean]. The switchover time for the manufacture of one variant to another is estimated to be less than a day.

Six Sigma principles ensure that defects and errors are reduced to the bare minimum, thus promoting the best-first-time approach, thus saving on costly reworks or even worse, complete scrapping of expensive hardware. Utilizing the concept called the Digital Thread [discussed later], it is possible to access accurate data and information about any product in an easy and convenient manner. This helps improve productivity and increase accuracy of work done, not to mention prevents the generation of costly waste.

The use of advanced machine tool, like Makino 5-axis Model MC1013-5XA Horizontal Machining Center for the machining components of the aircraft ensures accurate high-speed machining process with extreme precision and accuracy. Thus producing a product that is built within tolerance [use of these machines afford the use of extremely close tolerance] and doing away with wastage and scrap. The 5-axis Henri Liné Vertical Machining center for example, can cut at 25.4 m/min at 20000 rpm. Extensive use of automated drilling machines achieves similar ends. The wing assembly is being held vertically to enable better ergonomic work position for the workers, preventing fatigue. Use of precision tools also ensure that sub-assemblies made by the different partner companies mate without the need of re-work at the assembly plant – yet another cost saving factor that is a result of good quality work. [Machining and assembly will be talked about in greater details later]

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter BAE

BAE Systems is known to have invested in upgrading its modular tooling system to manufacture the aft fuselage and the tail of the F-35. It has adopted the use of Metrix advanced coordinate metrology software to design a tool building and inspection process for JSF manufacturing.

Lockheed Martin is paying special attention towards error-proofing the assembly of the F-35. For example, the body of the F-35 is fitted with many panels that cover access holes cut into the body. These panels have been deigned such that a panel fits perfectly only on its designed access hole [Poka-Yoke]. Similarly ink marker robotic arms mounted on gantry-like system sprays identification marks onto assembly components marking its proper location for the assembly process. This prevents and doubts or dis ambiguity about its end utilization.

Using a combination of process changes and advanced machining systems, the JSF team was able to prevent a lot of wastage of resources, which translted to lowering the cost of production. Thus the team has succeeded in manufacturing a 5th generation aircraft that costs around that of a 4th generation one [and according to certain calculations even less than one].

Sunday, August 17, 2008

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Manufacturing 01 - Introduction

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter AA-1


One of the most talked about weapons development program ever has been F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, christened Lightning II. A joint multi-national, development program aimed at developing the most advanced 5th generation manned, multi-role combat aircraft, it has attracted both critics and admirers in equal measures. Critics question its utility in the present scenario where the enemy is primarily indulging in irregular warfare operating in small cells from within their target territory. Its admirers on the other hand, quite rightly bring attention to the absolute bleeding edge of technology being used to develop the aircraft, many of which are being developed even as they are being used for the first time. The mind boggling level of precision being followed and the magnitude of co-ordination and co-operation between the different participating entities evokes a sense of awe and admiration among technocrats which can mildly and quite ineffectively be described as orgasmic.


The Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] program is a multi-national development program that aims to develop a multi-role combat aircraft that fulfills the requirements of the participating countries for defending their territorial and strategic interests. The program aims to achieve two seemingly contradictory objectives – to develop the most advanced combat aircraft and also being the most cost-effective aircraft in its class [5th generation aircrafts]. The fulfillment of the second objective is of paramount importance in face of the gradual reduction of the percentage of budgetary allowance being allotted to defense by respective countries. The program is an outcome of collaborative efforts of nine partner countries lead by the United States of America. The other seven countries include – United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Norway. Besides these countries other countries who have evinced interest in acquiring these aircrafts include Israel, Singapore and Japan. The scale of operation of this program is quite simply staggering – 11 partner countries, 1000 suppliers located in 30 countries, 130 development sites situated in 17 time zones where approximately 7000 Engineers and Designers are collaborating to develop the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Joint Strike Fighter program was initiated by the United States [US] in the early 90s to replace its present fleet of combat aircrafts and last well beyond 2050, into 2060s. As part of the program, two companies – Lockheed Martin and Boeing, were given the go ahead to build a working prototype of the aircraft that would fulfill its requirements. Lockheed Martin teamed up with the British Aerospace Engineering [BAE] company and Northrop Grumman while Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas to design and build their prototypes. Both the designs were based on engines supplied by the Pratt & Whitney company. Finally in October 2001, after evaluating and testing both the designs, it was decided to award the contract of the JSF to the Lockheed Martin headed team. The aircraft, which till then was referred to as X-35 ['X' for experimental aircraft], was re-christened as the F-35 Lightning II.

As part of the contract, Lockheed Martin is expected to supply in excess of 4500 aircrafts, each of which, according to various estimates, would cost around $35-50 million USD depending upon the variant of aircraft considered.


The program seeks to develop a single aircraft platform having different functional variants. Three variants of the F-35 have been designed :-


It is the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the aircraft. It will comprise the maximum number of F-35 aircrafts to be build.

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter

Aircraft to replace

It has been designed to take over duties from aircrafts like the F-16 and A-10 Thunderbolt II currently being operated by the U.S Air Force.


It is the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing [STOVL] variant of the aircraft to be built specifically for the U.S and U.K Marine forces.

F-35B Joint Strike Fighter

Aircraft to replace

The STOVL variant is expected to replace the only other operational STOVL combat aircraft – the AV8B Harrier and the conventional take-off F/A 18 Hornet being operated by the Marine forces of US and UK.


The Naval variant of the aircraft is designed to takeoff and land from aircraft carriers of the partner countries.

F-35C Joint Strike Fighter

Aircraft to replace

The aircraft has been designed primarily to replace the US Navy operated F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Even though each variant has been designed to perform distinctly different tasks, all of them display a high degree of commonality between the designs of the 3 variants – a fact which helps in keeping their production cost down by reducing inventory cost and doing away with the need to set up a dedicated assembly line for each variant. Design commonality would also help reduce the cost of training personals in handling and maintaining these aircrafts. Some estimates show that cost cutting achieved in maintaining these aircrafts would be in the range of $60 billion USD due to commonality of features.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Independence Day


Wishing you all a very Happy Independence Day. 61 years of joy, sorrow, triumph, apathy, courage, indifference…the whole gamut of reactions we have experienced as the citizen of this country we proudly and lovingly call India.

I take this occasion [and blog] to thank those who are ensuring my continuous Independence. The unknown soldier perched up on the glaciers of Siachen, patrolling through the deserts of Thar, maneuvering through the jungles of the North-East giving up his life so that I may continue my own. Without you, my Independence would be but a dream.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Abhinav Bindra wins Gold at the Olympics

Yes! yes!! yes!!! it has finally happened. India has won its first ever individual Gold medal at the Olympics. Abhinav Bindra has secured the Gold medal in the 10m Air Rifle event at the Beijing Olympics. Boy o’ boy, you have done what no other Indian has ever done. You have made a country of a billion people ecstatic and delirious with joy and a day they are not going to forget for the rest of their lives. Way to go attaboy!!


Thanks to my stupid cable operator, I received the News through a RSS feed and couldn’t watch it on TV – something I bunked college for today.

Abhinav Bindra’s blog

Wikipedia entry

Sunday, August 10, 2008

You are cordially invited to our wedding

Just found this in my inbox. The card appears not to belong to the sender. None of the names match [or at least the sender’s name did not]

20080810forward01Wedding card thingy

A couple with a phunny bone, kewl!!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Get a free copy of Windows Home Server from Microsoft

Free 120 days evaluation of Microsoft Home Server

I just ordered my free copy of Windows Home Server from Microsoft.

Okay, it is a 120 day free evaluation copy that they are shipping to anyone who bothers to ask for it. But the important thing is that it is FREE!

You may place an order for your copy here.

Wikipedia entry

Thanks, Manish for the info.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Keep your installed software updated using Personal Software Inspector [PSI]

Installed software in Windows should be kept updated to the latest versions of those software as newer versions not only provide better performance, but also patch any discovered vulnerabilities that could harm your computer. Though most software provide features to look for updates for those software, many don’t. It is also convenient if all the software that are installed can be updated from a single location.

Secunia Personal Software Inspector [PSI]

Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector [PSI], is a Freeware tool, that lets you do just that and quite a lot more. Listing out all the software that have a newer version available, it provides a direct link to most of them for download and update – very useful as you don’t have to bother yourself with trying to figure out which version of the software you need to download based on your computer’s configuration and setup – Secunia does it for you.

Being a software developed by a computer security service provider,  PSI also informs you of the potential vulnerabilities that the installed software posses and the degree of threat posed to your computer by that vulnerability. Based on that information you can take appropriate decision about that installed software, either conclude that the threat posed to your computer isn’t threatening enough or uninstall the software.

Though the number of software for which it informs you of update is vast, there were a few software that I use whose updates are not informed through PSI. They have thoughtfully provided a link using which you may inform them of the need to add that software for monitoring. Still of the around 103 software installed, 7 not being monitored is not that bad a record for this nifty freeware.

One thing that they could also have monitored, would in my opinion, be device drivers. However this may have been a deliberate omission as many choose to install non-official drivers for their hardware.

For keeping my device drivers in Windows updated, I prefer using another freeware – DriverMax.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Google Sites with your own domain name

Just found out that you can use your own, custom domain names with Google sites. So I went ahead and created one for myself – This feature is currently available for users of Google Apps. You need to get yourself a Google Apps account and create a Google sites through it.

Login as an Admin and activate Google sites for your domain if not done it already. Once activated, you could create a subdomain from where users must login in and create their sites.

original subdomain

By default, it would be I changed the subdomain to You will then be asked to add a CNAME entry for the same.


Login to your DNS service account and add a CNAME entry for [same as above] pointing to


Once this step is completed it could take around 24-48 hours for the sub-domain to be accessible [safe assumption – I found it accessible in a couple of hours].

With the subdomain for Google sites for your domain now accessible, login and create a new site.

create a new site

Play around to learn how you can jazz it up with the features provided. Once done with the site designing you may log out. You now need to associate the site with the desired subdomain. Else, as the picture above shows, the sites homepage address would be duhh WTF !!!

Log back to your Administrator control panel and access the sites link. Click on the Web address mapping link to map the site to a subdomain.

Map domain name

Add the name of the site which you want to map [green] and select the subdomain you wish to map it to [blue].

Map domain

Once done, click on Add mapping [red]. You will then be asked to add a CNAME record pointing to in the DNS records.


Wait for around 24-48 hours and you will find your newly created Google sites accessible as a proper subdomain. Any page on that site will also have the same subdomain as an address like this.

If you have a number of online entities – a blog, a mico-blog, a tumblog, Flickr stream etc, then it would be a cool idea to have a nicely designed Google sites with as your homepage and that page it could contain the links and latest updates from all those other sites on it.

The fact that Google intends to develop Google sites as a full fledged platform of online presence can be guaged from the fact that it also allows you to use Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools with these sites.

Google sites also allows you to choose the path name for a given page, independent of the page title.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Send your name into space with the Kepler Mission

Kepler mission

Thanks to NASA, you can now send your name into space. The Kepler mission, scheduled to be launched in February 2009 aims to look for planets similar in size to the Earth in areas beyond the solar system and study their characteristics. This is based on the assumption that a planet similar in size to the Earth will have a higher chance of being able to support life than others.

The space-based photometer that is to be launched for this purpose will also carry with it a DVD containing the names of all those who sign up for this campaign.

All names and messages will also be forwarded to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum for archival.

Fill up the form to add your name to the DVD

Wikipedia entry

Once you fill up and submit the form, a download link will be provided to save the certificate as a jpeg file.

Thanks Shikha964 for posting the info on the forum.

Godspeed Google CLI-style!! Some things are so freakingly novel, that you don’t give a damn if its practical application is suspect. would be one such site. Goosh emulates the Command Line Interface of a Unix shell for performing searches. The interface is rendered using AJAX. Results are served up from Google, its specialized searches and Wikipedia. For example, typing Hancock will perform a normal Google search for the term. Type in b Hancock and it will perform a blog search for the term and will produce results accordingly. Typing in l Hancock will emulate the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button in Google. You can also access your Gmail account with Goosh. It allow you to add searching with Goosh in the Firefox browser.

Type in h and then press enter to get the full list of commands that can be used with Goosh.