Production Line Details Systems

Discussion in 'Technical Requests' started by csteimel47591, Oct 17, 2011.

  1. csteimel47591

    csteimel47591 New Member

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    Greetings,
    I'm a mechanical engineer who is heavily involved in the setup and management of manufacturing plants. Even with today's technology it can be a real job to get things hammered out on the production lines. I've always taken great interest in WW2 and the incredible feats of that time period.

    Furthermore, I've always been amazed by the aircraft production lines they setup in those times. I'm always looking for information on the manufacturing systems they used (index cards) and how they got things working with just paper--pen technology. Especially when you look at the hundreds of thousands of individual components that go into a single bomber.

    I'm looking for details information on the production of aircraft in WWII. Such specific questions as these:

    How did they track such a vast array of components and minimize errors?
    What type of inventory system did they use?
    How were the aircraft production lines setup on a station by station basis?
    How many individuals were in each "cell" ?

    Any sources, documents or input will be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,

    CS
     
  2. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    OUt there somewhere is an hour no commercial video of the Willow Run plant where they pumped out a B24 an hour it aired on the Detroit PBS station and however I searched could not find it, but did find this which might be of interest
    A Bomber An Hour...{Strategos}
     
  3. mudpuppy

    mudpuppy Member

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  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    There's a good over view of the Messeschmitt Regensburg production/assembly line in Peter Schmoll's 'Nest of Eagles',around pp55,56,57.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  5. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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  6. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I think someone here posted a PDF file of the technical details of Willow Run. It was a WW2 era "classified" document and it was full of neat info.
     
  7. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Hi CS;

    Maybe I can give you some information.

    I worked in aircraft manufacturing for a number of years. I worked on the P-3, L1011 and B-2 production lines. For the most part the process is pretty similar between manufacturers and differ little from the way things were set up during WW2.

    When I worked in this environment there were no computers so everything was done with paper. Production planners and manufacturing engineers developed a "recipe" on how the aircraft was being built. Detail parts were manufactured and moved from "back shops" into sub assembly areas and in turn those sub-assemblies were moved into station areas where they eventually make up a large sub assembly (wing, fuselage, elevators, etc.) As these items go together at stations, electrical wiring and harnesses are built into the aircraft. As the aircraft comes together, engines are hung, landing gear is installed and tested as well as other electrical and hydraulic systems. While all this is going on, each step is documented on a "shop traveler" where the process is documented. Inspectors will "buy off" on specified items and quality engineers will audit the process to make sure everything is being done properly.

    This is very simplified and a very general description of what goes on. I'm sure today many manufacturers have computers to document everything in a paperless process. There's also a process to document and fix any defects discovered during the manufacturing process.
     
  8. DTParker

    DTParker New Member

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    All,

    Thank you for your helpful responses to this most interesting inquiry. Do any of you know of books or magazine articles on this topic? I have searched, and come up dry.

    Also, I have seen old photos of aircraft assembly lines in WWII that show a slew of aircraft which all appear to be in the same stage of production. Does this mean that they were essentially doing the planes in batches (even though they were on an assembly line)?

    I have read one book on the Consolidated Aircraft line in San Diego which produced Liberators that indicated that the line only moved during lunch time and between shifts. If that is the case, would the line then move the planes more than one notch? In other words, did they complete two or three planes between line moves, rather than just one?

    Thanks,

    Dana Parker
    [email protected]
     
  9. MIflyer

    MIflyer Member

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    #9 MIflyer, May 8, 2012
    Last edited: May 8, 2012
    In WWII they avoided interupting the main production lines by using modification centers to update or change the configuration of aircraft either to incoroporate changes from lessons learned in combat or to incorporate special features.

    One of these modification centers was the Midwest Air Depot at Midwest City, OK, at what is now Tinker AFB, the first place I worked as a mechanical engineer right out of college in the 1970's. Among the aircraft sent there after they came off the production lines were the 509th Bomb Group B-29's for the Silverplate mods required for the atomic bomb missions. I talked to one man who had worked on those aircraft and he said that they were told to go a higher standard than was normally done. For example, a common procedure was to remove the fuel flow meters from new aircraft and calibrate them. For those special B-29's they were told to accomplish the calibration with the meters still installed in the aircraft, using the aircraft fuel lines. This gave a higher accuracy, but was a lot more trouble to do. They did not realize at the time why those particular B-29's were so important; later it was obvious why you did not want a 509th BG aircraft to run out of fuel.

    So they minimized the changes the production facilities had to contend with by doing them elsewhere.

    Also let me add something one of my high school teachers told me. He was a WWII naval aviator and was told to take a group of pilots and go pick up some new Stearman trainers at Whicita. They decided they would rather pick the airplanes up the day before so they could spend the night enroute on the way home at a place with better facilities. They got there and were told they could not pick up the airplanes because they had not been built yet. They showed him a single piece of hardware that was all that existed of the the serial no
    airplane he was to fly the next day. He followed that airplane through the production process that night as it grew into a Stearman biplane.

    There are a couple of books out with pictures on WWII aircraft production lines.

    They are: "Picture History of World War II American Aircraft Production" and
    "Forge of Freedom - American Aircraft Production in World War II"

    Also if you go to a really good library and look for bound copies of Aviation magazine in the WWII time period there are articles on design and production of aircraft, including some really good pieces on Axis aircraft and equipment they dismantled and examined.
     
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