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Saab Aerostructures Factory in Brazil optimizes processes for Gripen using digital technology

3 min read

Digitization of industrial activities in order to improve processes and increase productivity is a hot topic. At Saab's Aerostructures Plant in Brazil, located in São Bernardo do Campo (SP), it is no different. The factory, responsible for producing six different aerostructure packages for Gripen, a new fighter of the Brazilian Air Force, uses digital technology in the manufacturing process through a Model Based-Definition method (MBD).

The MBD method means that the complete manufacturing project is based on 3D models, in which the needed information is described in a digital format. The process also allows employees to have access to data about the characteristics of the part such as dimensions, tolerance and manufacturing methods, securely through Saab’s  network.

MBD is part of a quality system already used by the company in Linköping and ensures that the information presented is always the latest. In Brazil, the format was adapted to the local operating conditions and national legislation.

The factory in Brazil, which recently delivered the first pair of air brakes for Gripen E/F, receives an information package that includes the parts list, as well as all needed procedures and requirements to be met within the assembly process in Brazil, from the Saab head offices in Sweden.

“With this information, our role in manufacturing engineering is to recognize the product requirements, analyse and mitigate possible process risks and generate 3D work instructions for assemblers to start the production. The instructions generated through the MBD methodology allows for the visualization of the assembly sequence of the product, even before actual manufacturing starts. With this, we are able to simulate the product and the assembly, in addition to detect and correct any possible flaws at an early stage ”, explains Saulo da Mata, assembly engineer at Saab.

For many of the employees' in Brazil, their first contact with the MBD was in Sweden whilst undergoing a theoretical and practical, on-the-job training. For each area, there is a specific training and a technology transfer programme that can range from 12 to 24 months. This gained knowledge reflects in turn in the increase of new capabilities of the national defence industry, some of which are unprecedented in Latin America.

In Brazil, the team has a direct communication channel with the team in Sweden so that adjustments can be made to the process, when necessary. The validated information can be accessed through a shared database, which facilitates simultaneous engineering and reduces project execution time. Another gain with the implementation of the MDB method is that the entire process is digital and eliminates any type of paper documentation in the production area, generating less environmental impact and ensuring that the information is accessed only by authorized persons, guaranteeing the confidentiality of the operation.