OneWeb Satellites plans world’s first satellite production line

With a mission to revolutionise the economies of space; mass-producing a satellite constellation that will provide high-speed internet access worldwide, OneWeb Satellites have used Lanner’s digital twinning technology to design two factories – an initial one in Toulouse and a subsequent one in Florida in what is the world’s first satellite serial production lines.

Planning mass production for complex products 

Traditionally, satellites have been designed and manufactured manually on a small scale, with manufactures building a handful of satellites per year. OneWeb Satellites will produce hundreds of satellites in a year.

Satellite production has never before been managed on this scale. OneWeb Satellites therefore needed to design a factory that delivered the necessary throughput, while accounting for the complex assembly process and supply chain.

“We were designing from start-up and needed assurance that what we were creating would deliver products on time to our customer,” said Gwendolyn Sisto, Operations & Planning Manager at OneWeb Satellites, ahead of utilising Lanner’s WITNESS Horizon model.

“Lanner gave us a demonstration, and it was immediately clear that WITNESS offered a user-friendly experience. Seemingly little things like the range of variables or the ability to make an input/output file in Excel to avoid hard coding variables in the model – amount to game changers,” Gwendolyn explained. 

Collaboration, flexibility and evidence-based decision making

Lanner experts held initial training with the OneWeb Satellites team, taking them through WITNESS and creating the preliminary model.

“OneWeb Satellites was looking for an evidence-based way to define the factory, and even in the demo version of the model, they could start understanding key aspects,” said Eric Gaury, Senior Consultant at Lanner. “From there, it was easy for OneWeb Satellites to take ownership of the model, develop it and get ongoing value.” 

The model incorporated a vast range of variables.

OneWeb Satellites needed to be able to accurately predict satellite production to meet launch dates. They needed to understand how production, automation, quality assurance and supply chain factors affected throughput. Importantly, they needed to account for a learning curve – because the first satellites take longer to make than the 400th one due to efficiency increases over time. 

Gwendolyn added: “I need the ability to tell suppliers how soon to get ready and what rates are needed at specific times. WITNESS has just the right amount of detail – I can flesh out different rates by month, week and even by day, and it’s easy to run scenarios that factor in a learning curve. Plus, I get precise capacity analyses and lead-time metrics, so I can see exactly how to get the greatest value from a resource to meet customer needs.” 

An accurate masterplan and complete production visibility

Lanner started working with OneWeb Satellites in 2017, and since then Gwendolyn and the team have used WITNESS to  design two factories – an initial one in Toulouse and a subsequent one in Florida.

Over the last two years, they have run hundreds of scenarios. The model has been crucial in designing production flow, understanding utilisation and managing supplier inputs. They have an MRP system to support execution and use Kanban, but the model gives OneWeb Satellites an accurate way to forward schedule, plan subassemblies and ensure the right level of buffer stock for on-time delivery.

“My role was to develop a master plan for satellite production, and WITNESS has been a crucial strategic tool. The model takes the guesswork out of manufacturing. It continues to play a vital role in our business forecasting because it enables accurate, system-level thinking. The fact I was able to use this technology from the beginning and embed it in our day-to-day work has made a huge difference to our success.” 

OneWeb Satellites is now looking at new WITNESS functionality that integrates the model with the current state of the factory in real time, allowing the company to leverage Industry 4.0 developments to streamline production management as operations reach full capacity.

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