Richardson: Digital design makes old review processes obsolete

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The era of “critical three-day design reviews” of Air Force programs could end with the advent of digital design and development methods, said Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, head of Materiel Command. of the Air Force, to attendees at an industry conference.

Speaking at AFMC’s Lifecycle Industry Days in Dayton, Ohio, Richardson said digital design is “changing everything,” including the long processes of progressing programs to their next stage.

“It completely transforms the way we do systems engineering,” Richardson said of the new technology. Delegating decision making to the “lowest level” and having a constant, up-to-date digital model or twin of the system that all interested parties can review “will likely end these cataclysmic three-day critical design review events. where I’m at a table with all these drawings – like I’m supposed to notice if there’s [something] faded away. Let’s go. That’s no way to do business.

Design Reviews “I think they will eventually become a thing of the past because they happen all the time; each day. We have programs that do that now, where we have design reviews that happen as part of the normal work day.

Richardson said “we’ll probably still have something like a CDR where people like me go and give it the stamp of approval, but really, it’s been going on all along.”

The list of contract data requirements will also be wiped out, as there will no longer be a need to “wait for something to hit my desk…CDRL happens all the time. And so the calendar” is updated all the time.

“It’s a change of mindset,” he said, and he strongly encourages everyone at AFMC involved in contracting to get training on the technology, but he doesn’t. not enough yet, he said.

The same thing happens with testing, he said: there’s “test verification traceability” and “if we do the models right, we can actually do more testing in the virtual world and fewer tests in the real world”.

All of this translates into faster manufacturing, Richardson said, citing the example of Boeing’s T-7 trainer, which came with “an 80% reduction in labor hours. It’s just fantastic.

He also warned contractors that “if you’re in the defense industry, you need to start looking at how this might change your manufacturing operations.”

Richardson said he “likes” that digital technology “pushes a lot of manufacturing off the critical path, and broadens the industrial base. If you’re a small business, those kinds of methods allow you to play in a lot of ways. wider.” Manufacturing can be “moved outside the premises and involve more sources.”

The benefits are “so pervasive,” Richardson said, adding that he couldn’t think of any “downsides.”

Richardson said his audience should take away from the lecture the understanding that digital material management “applies to new systems” such as the Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile, the Next Generation Air Dominance fighter program and the T-7 trainer. , but also applies to “our legacy systems, such as the commercial re-engining of the B-52 or the F-15EX. We do not scan the entire aircraft in these cases, we scan the parts” that need to be upgraded or modified ” more broadly.

However, for small changes, “frankly, it doesn’t make sense. I’m not trying to say it goes everywhere. But if it is a medium size [modification]it’s important and we should do it,” Richardson said.

He challenged the defense industry to “get on the bus or you’re going to get run over by the bus.”

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