New Tools, Processes Increase Production Rate By 50
Bell Helicopter closed out 2008 with delivery of the ninth
OH-58D aircraft to be modified under the current Kiowa Warrior
Safety Enhancement Program contract.
"We delivered a total of nine aircraft in 2008 -- six more
aircraft than were required by the contract schedule," said Amy
Tedford, Director of Military Fielded Systems at Bell
"We're keenly aware of the Army's need to have additional OH-58D
aircraft available for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan," said
Tedford, "and it's been a real team effort by everyone involved in
the Safety Enhancement Program to get these aircraft completed and
back to the Army ahead of schedule."
Bell's Safety Enhancement Program line had been closed down and
put into storage after work was completed on the previous SEP lot
in December 2007. As workers prepared to restart the line for Lot
11 in May 2008, they applied Textron Six Sigma processes and tools
to accomplish a lean restart of the SEP line.
"The direct involvement of employees from every part of the
process allowed Bell's SEP team to significantly reduce the
footprint for both assembly and flight operations, and to increase
their aircraft production rate by fifty percent," said Tedford.
The first aircraft completed by the team was delivered back to
the Army on September 24, 2008, two months ahead of contract
schedule. Bell's SEP team has maintained that lead and continues to
deliver all completed SEP aircraft two months ahead of
A total of 27 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aircraft are being upgraded
in Lot 11 of the Safety Enhancement Program. The $30 million
contract was awarded April 30, 2008. All work is being done at Bell
Helicopter's Plant 1 facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The 18
remaining aircraft in Lot 11 are planned to be completed in
The OH-58Ds are being upgraded with an improved engine and
improved computer control systems that include related new wiring
harnesses. The improvements are part of a series of safety and
performance modifications the Army has implemented to keep the
OH-58D armed reconnaissance helicopter safe and mission effective
until it is retired.
The US Army fleet of Kiowa helicopters has accumulated more than
1.6 million flight hours and over 400,000 combat flight hours.
Despite high usage rates, daily combat scenarios and harsh
environmental conditions, the OH-58D continues to achieve readiness
rates above 80 percent.