Down to Earth Manufacturing Magazine
Santa Ana, CA - 1 April, 2006
Ensuring that a product works 100 percent of the time is the goal of most companies, but for Irvin Aerospace it's a necessity. Irvin manufactures a wide range of deceleration devices- including parachutes-that carry soldiers. space shuttles, and everything in between back to earth safely.
Specifically. Irvin Aerospace designs, develops. and manufactures best-or- class parachutes for space and air vehicle recovery systems, deceleration systems for high-performance aircraft, military personnel parachute systems, cargo parachute systems, ordnance and weapon delivery systems, spin/stall parachute recovery systems, flare chutes, and airbags, and also performs simulations, analyses, and tests. Its corporate headquarters is in Santa Ana. CA.
The company's roots trace back to the advent of the parachute. The Irving Air Chute Company (yes, the name was misspelled back then) was established more than 85 years ago in Buffalo, NY, by Leslie Irvin, the man who made the first successful free-fall parachute jump in history.
Irvin's design became the industry standard, and his company has manufactured millions of aerodynamic decelerators since 1919. Irvin 's 100,000-square- foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility houses engineering design and manufacturing operations, a recent integration that is unique to the industry. Nearly eight years ago Carlos Lopez, director of operations, reorganized the workflow into cells. Three years later, when the company changed hands, the new owners put their full support behind this approach. "Carlos was using a lean approach without calling it lean," said Dave Berry, president.
Now Irvin Aerospace is implementing lean enterprise across its entire business operation. "This is providing a lot of opportunity for us," Berry said, "especially in key processes, like the bid and order process. We're in the early stages of implementing it in our procurement processes." This extension of lean into other areas is also helping manufacturing. "We're getting our suppliers to help us get our materials just in time," Lopez said, "and that's helping us financially and yielding a more productive flow. At the same time we're forecasting with our vendors; in this way we're creating a partnership with them." Berry agreed. "Very simple things have come out of the lean effort," he said. "Rather than a monthly plan, Carlos works from weekly and daily plans. It's easier to plan and easier for suppliers to respond to our needs."