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United Launch Alliance: Mission as Big as Space

September 23, 2014 by David Trites 0

Space boggles my mind. It is incomprehensible just how big it is and how small we are. I’m reminded of that every time I see an image of space that has an arrow pointing to a tiny speck of dust that says “You are here.”

And to drive the point home, the tiny speck isn’t even Earth; it is our entire solar system, which itself is in just one of an estimated 200 billion galaxies in the universe.

A Big Mission

Nobody knows the size of space. It’s infinite and expanding. It is indeed the final frontier, and for many of us on this tiny blue planet, that is an exciting opportunity.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) is a world leader in sending rockets into space. Its rockets carry payloads for weather, telecommunications, national security, as well as deep space and interplanetary exploration. These missions are critical to life on Earth and furthering our knowledge of the universe.

“Working at ULA you get to be a part of something that is much bigger than just yourself,” said Paul Fuqua of the IT Solutions Group at ULA.

Building, testing, and sending payload-carrying rockets into space is not easy. That’s why ULA’s motto is, Perfect Product Delivery – a relentless pursuit to continuously improve processes and products, satisfy every customer, and develop a world-class work environment.

“Both manufacturing and launch operations use the SAP Complex Assembly Manufacturing solution on a day to day basis, to not only build the rockets, but to test them and launch them,” said Fuqua.

SAP Complex Assembly Manufacturing is critical during launch, as it is used to make sure all the buildups are ready for blastoff. It also integrates with ULA’s other IT systems, which gives the company visibility across its build and test activities and helps to increase its launch rate.

Constant Improvement

“We’re constantly trying to find ways to improve the system,” said Fuqua. One such improvement was a new graphical user interface for the users on the shop floor. The previous system’s interface was designed for more of a linear, or sequential, build environment. But that’s not always how ULA operates.

“In a test environment you may have multiple test plans that you have open at the same time. You may need to jump back and forth very quickly. The ability to do those activities was a major development and we worked very closely with the SAP Custom Development organization to make that happen,” said Fuqua.

Infinite Benefits

Having an integrated, flexible assembly and manufacturing solution has benefited ULA in many ways. Workflow on the shop floor has been simplified and access to information is available at any time.

“The most important benefit that SAP Complex Assembly Manufacturing has provided is the ability to view our work in a simple easily accessible format anywhere, anytime at any state. That is an amazing feature that we’ve never had before,” said Fuqua.

Space may be infinite, but so is human potential. With every mission, ULA helps to improve our lives on earth and give us a better understanding of what lies beyond.

To learn more about SAP Complex Assembly Manufacturing check out this video and solution brief.

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