A Decision Support Tool for Automating Aerospace Assembly

Lauren McGarry*, Joseph Butterfield, Adrian Murphy, Robert Burke, Colin Burnside

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


To implement Industry 4.0 (I4.0) in aerospace assembly, manufacturers need a practical method to review and quantify current build processes to determine the feasibility and provide insight into what tasks should be automated. Current literature reveals limited scientific means by which an aerospace assembly line can be examined for the viability of a transition to automated assembly. The aim of this paper is to present a digital tool which can be used to analyse engineering process data for a manual assembly line plan, providing a platform to assess what tasks are candidates for automation. The Engineering Process Records (EPRs) of an aircraft nacelle assembly were used. Data relating to task frequency and duration were extracted and nacelle part size, weight, and shape data was obtained from CAD files. These were translated into a process classification matrix in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The creation and application of the tool enabled the distillation of assembly data to a point where outputs could be used to inform decisions around automation. Results show that 80% of the total time was consumed by only 20% of the tasks, hi-lighting these for potential automation. These tasks centred on drilling processes and the handling of fasteners. The high complexity/low volume nature of aerospace assembly means that although processes around making and dressing holes and the insertion of fasteners were candidates for automation, remaining tasks were of short duration or low frequency, where a transition to automated execution was less justifiable.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Transdisciplinary Engineering
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 9: Advances in Manufacturing Technology XXXIII
EditorsYan Jin, Mark Price
PublisherIOS Press
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-64368-009-5
ISBN (Print)978-1-64368-008-8
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
Event17th International Conference on Manufacturing Research - Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Sep 201912 Sep 2019
Conference number: 17


Conference17th International Conference on Manufacturing Research
Abbreviated titleICMR 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland Technology Centre, and Bombardier.

OS Press Copyright 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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