Innovative Aerospace Electronics Company Fokker Elmo Has Developed a Global Leadership in Wire Harness Technology

In 1908 Anthony Fokker’s imagination soared with the news of Wilbur Wright’s exhibition flights in France. Two years later the aspiring Dutch aviator’s father sent him to train as a mechanic for the growing automotive industry. But his passion was flying. That same year the 20-year-old Fokker built his first aircraft, ‘de Spin’ – the Spider.

Today Fokker Technologies specializes in manufacturing for other global aviation and aerospace companies. Its Elmo division, based in the Netherlands, has developed a singular expertise in electrical interconnection systems for aircraft and aircraft engines. Fokker Elmo facilities in Holland, Turkey and China build wire harnesses and assemblies for companies throughout the world including Lockheed Martin (JSF), Airbus (A320, A400 and A380), Bombardier (CSeries) and Boeing (737 and 777) among others.

The company’s Wiring Design and Manufacturing System (WDMS) is a highly efficient manufacturing software tool and process that greatly reduces overall costs, captures the design, and converts the information for all aspects of the production process. WDMS safeguards the configuration of the aircraft wiring and enables online change capabilities.

FK02Visual inspection of each termination verifies the correct components and markings.

Bombardier, Canada, employs Fokker Elmo’s range of services. “We are responsible for the design and production of the entire wiring and interconnection system for Bombardier’s CSeries civilian aircraft, from start to finish,” says Fokker Elmo manufacturing engineer Rinie van Gorsel.

The company provides integrated design, manufacturing and a customer support package that includes several electrical panels. In addition, the company is designing and producing all flight test and instrumentation wiring required during the certification of the CSeries. It also handles all modifications before the aircraft is put into service. According to van Gorsel, “Fokker Elmo delivered the complete wiring system for the first CSeries flight test vehicle (FTV1) including all the flight test instrumentation, which was installed first time right and successfully enabled a ‘Full Power On’.”

The higher-volume production demands of Airbus and Boeing have been ideal for transforming much of the fabrication from centralized electrical testing to a model of lean production. DIT-MCO International, a supplier to Fokker Elmo for electrical testing, assisted in the transformation at the company facility in Langfang, China.

Fokker has long used a centralized test bench with a large DIT-MCO test system configured with 9,600 test points. This test bench, which incorporates the test interface directly above the work surface, provides greater flexibility by accommodating many different harness designs.

“There is still a need for a large test bench, but few assemblies require more than 1,500 test points, and most less than 1,000 points,” says van Gorsel. The centralized process that was well suited to lower volumes had created such a bottleneck for higher volume runs that the plant operated two testing shifts to keep up with one shift of manufacturing.

There is no movement of the materials until the harness is completely finished, a basic lean principle that also minimizes handling damage. “From start to finish, one technician can build, test, fix and complete the process without moving the product around,” says van Gorsel. Throughput is faster than before, there is less work-in-process, products spend less time in ‘build’ stages, and lead time has decreased.

4130 fixedFokker designs form boards used to assemble the wire harnesses.

Fokker Elmo’s facility in Izmir, Turkey, is producing the JSF program. “We provide everything for the JSF, from test programs, which are developed in Holland, to fabrication and testing with DIT-MCO in Turkey,” says van Gorsel. The company ships finished harnesses to other international locations doing full aircraft assembly and testing.

Initially, Turkey used a low-volume approach with standard centralized testing and the large DIT-MCO Model 2650. As production increased and more programs were added, Fokker Elmo Turkey moved to lean processes with small distributed test systems based on DIT-MCO’s 2115 tester in the manufacturing cell, modeled on the plant in China. Fokker Elmo’s operation in the Netherlands is home to extensive fabrication of aircraft and jet engine harnesses for civilian and military aircraft. It is also the heart of everything that happens before production at any Fokker Elmo operation.

DIT-MCO engineers developed a special interface to help transition the testing process in China from the centralized tester to the Model 2115 in the flow-shop environment. The interface, designed to accommodate existing test adapters, is interchangeable and supports existing data-generation processes.

For cable testing, harness testing and other automated product testing solutions, customers rely on DIT-MCO wiring analyzers.

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