Case studies

Spirit AeroSystems takes flight with smart factory solutions

A case study in smart manufacturing

What did Spirit AeroSystems do when they came up against the challenges of upgrading an 80-year-old facility? Instead of building anew, the tier 1 manufacturer chose to invest in smart factory solutions. Learn how Spirit, with the help of Deloitte, used the power of technology to digitize operations and create a 21st century smart factory.

The factory of the future

Dynamic scheduling takes flight

Spirit AeroSystems is one of the world’s largest tier 1 manufacturers and suppliers of aerostructures. If you fly frequently, it is likely that you have flown on a plane that was manufactured, at least in part, by Spirit.

The production of airplane structures is a precise, highly regulated business that has many moving parts. From rivets and bolts to seats and engines, an aircraft can be made up of more than 4 million individual parts. Ensuring that each part meets specifications and is also available when needed requires traceability throughout every stage of the part’s life cycle, from raw material to final installation.

When Spirit took over Boeing’s Wichita, Kansas, operations in 2005, the company operated in the 80-year-old facility that was used to build the B-29 Superfortress during World War II. While rich in history, the legacy infrastructure presented challenges when the company wanted to upgrade operations to track materials, remove bottlenecks, and overcome inefficiencies. Instead of investing the tens of millions of dollars it would take to build a new facility, Spirit chose to invest in smart factory solutions to address its challenges. The goal was to harness the power of technology to enhance constraint visibility, optimize throughput and efficiency, and improve on-time delivery.

Dynamic scheduling takes flight

It’s never just about the technology. It’s about the process and the people; it’s about staying focused on driving business value, and the technology should support that guiding principle.

                       —Louis Librandi, principal, Manufacturing Strategy and Smart Operations, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Transforming manufacturing operations through smart factory solutions

Spirit asked Deloitte to help digitize its manufacturing operations and lay the groundwork for a 21st century smart factory. The Deloitte team hit the ground running, integrating supplier systems, arming assets with sensors, and installing an RFID ecosystem to track and trace materials. With the key elements in place, the Opticrew solution was activated.

Several years later, Spirit now uses the Opticrew solution, which is one of many smart factory applications in Deloitte’s Smart Factory Fabric suite. The Opticrew solution is a cloud-based, dynamic scheduler that tracks materials, monitors machine health, and dispatches job assignments in real time. Opticrew simplifies visual management and ensures that resources and people are in the right place at the right time.

Spirit initially piloted the solution on one manufacturing line and soon after was able to quickly observe improved labor productivity and real-time tracking capabilities, increased asset utilization, and reduced work in process (WIP). The Opticrew solution has connected operational levers with financial benefits that drive bottom line value.


This solution has really helped streamline our factory flows, make them leaner, and ultimately improve our productivity, our delivery, and our quality.

                        —Thomas Gentile, president and CEO, Spirit AeroSystems

Driving advanced manufacturing in aerospace and defense

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The next chapter

Over the next three years, Spirit will continue to drive bottom-line improvements with its next rollout of Smart Factory Fabric applications. This next chapter will see the solution expand into new geographies, with savings projected to exceed tens of millions of dollars annually. Spirit’s long-term, scaled plan marks the creation of a globally connected ecosystem, an objective that might have previously been considered unachievable. For Spirit, Opticrew represents just the first leg of the organization’s journey to become a truly smart factory.

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