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Customer Story

Improving Efficiency & Giving the Factory Floor a Voice at Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC), a leader in aerospace and defense manufacturing, embarked on a digital transformation project in 2018 to enhance operational efficiency at its “Space Park” facility in Redondo Beach, CA.

Improving Efficiency & Giving the Factory Floor a Voice at Northrop Grumman

About the organization

Northrop Grumman Corporation is an American multinational aerospace and defense technology company. With thousands of employees worldwide and annual revenue above $30 billion, it is one of the world's largest military and space technology providers.





Nº of Employees

100000 +

The Challenge:

As part of a multi-year digital transformation project, NGC sought to improve communications and productivity on the factory floor as well as provide a modern lobby experience for one of its new, high-traffic buildings. The two primary goals of the project were to empower floor managers and technicians with real-time, data-driven information and ensure employees and visitors could easily navigate the 110-acre NGC campus.

While the goals for the new lobby experience revolved around showcasing the capabilities of digital signage including wayfinding, the team’s vision for digital signage on the production floor focused on improving quality and efficiency. But in a high-mix, low-volume production environment, with data coming from multiple systems, the right solution for various floors and projects required a high degree of flexibility.

The manufacturing industry, in general, struggles to democratize information, as data is often siloed in different systems, and it is challenging for anyone to gather that information and to make sense of it.

—Oscar Castillo, Factory Modernization & Digital Transformation Project Manager, Northrop Grumman

Compounding the issue of siloed information, simply unlocking the data is not enough—the team at NGC needed a way to aggregate that information, make it actionable, and help technicians and managers prioritize it. The team worked to automate as much of this process as possible, so sensors were added to manufacturing equipment and code was written to ensure that monitors were continuously sent production data, essentially letting the factory speak for itself. Because the production floor can be so dynamic, with constraints and priorities shifting continually, the NGC team also wanted to allow floor managers to easily control the content displayed, ensuring teams were kept in the loop. Their goal was to reduce span time due to slow communications channels, while also ensuring stringent quality standards were met. To illuminate the challenge of the work the team does, Oscar stated:

We're sending stuff into space. We can't send repair people to go and deal with something if it doesn’t work exactly as it’s designed to. That’s why quality is so important to us—once it's launched, it's launched. Anything we can do to help reduce the time it takes to produce a product and ensure its quality—that’s meaningful to Northrop Grumman. And that’s why we use digital signage on our production floors.

The Solution:

NGC selected Poppulo (formerly Four Winds Interactive) as its digital signage provider for the building’s lobby experience and production floor communications.

The initial implementation included an interactive wayfinding solution and a large interactive screen in the lobby designed to showcase the company’s mission, innovations, and more, as well as 15 screens on the production floor. The screens on the production floor were interactive, allowing managers and technicians to see top-level metrics and then drill-down into custom dashboards as needed. The solutions implemented were far-reaching, built to solve specific challenges NGC’s manager and technician communities faced every day.

One example is the NGC team’s factory floor screen showing real-time environmental conditions within a lab. Given the nature of the work done at the Space Park facility, certain specifications must be adhered to—in this case, the products must be built within specific environmental constraints. Otherwise, production must stop. Prior to implementing the screens showing temperature and relative humidity during dry months, floor managers would have to walk the floor multiple times a day, check the analog sensor readings, and communicate any necessary mitigation strategies back to everyone else—a time-consuming process. Today, all that information is readily available to everyone on the floor, and mitigation strategies are programmed to display if certain conditions are met. This alone democratizes the environmental information and empowers everyone on the floor to take action if needed, ensuring the floor operates efficiently without needing manager intervention.

One of the primary goals of our digital signage project was to improve situational awareness through better communication, freeing up time for both floor managers and technicians. I’m happy to say we accomplished that.
—Oscar Castillo

That solution was accompanied by screens displaying other operational efficiency metrics designed to reduce dwell times, enhance situational awareness, and improve communication on the production floor. To ensure the factory floor could speak for itself, Oscar and his team enabled managers to control the content on their screens, ensuring that critical information could be deployed—quickly—whenever the management team needed to. In addition to ensuring the managers could control the content their teams saw, regular user experience surveys helped refine what was displayed on the integrated, data-driven screens.

We knew the factory floor could move much faster with more real-time, integrated comms, but to make that a reality, we had to figure out a way to free all the information trapped in different systems and ensure people could access it whenever they needed to. Poppulo’s platform helped us realize that goal.
—Oscar Castillo

The Results:

Northrop Grumman's digital signage network has significantly enhanced workplace communication, improved situational awareness and efficiency, reduced span time, enhanced site navigation, and more. However, its success wasn’t limited solely to the use cases the company initially sought to solve. Shortly after the factory floor signs were in place, the Health and Safety team inquired if they could get their content on those screens to help with its slips, trips, and falls campaign. Due to the flexibility of the Poppulo platform, that was easy, and by amplifying that campaign on digital signs, NGC’s health and safety team was able to reduce injuries.

Overall, Oscar and the team responsible for the project agree that it was, and still is, a success. According to Oscar, “Digital signage is definitely helping our production floor move more efficiently, which means shorter span times and improved quality.” Through feedback, additional applications have been developed, with one of the more recent data-driven use cases revolving around oven temperatures. This application was designed to show oven temperatures and trigger alerts if thresholds were met, reducing the need for re-work, and ensuring quality. This type of application—and many others in use at Northrop—are changing how the factory floor operates simply by democratizing and displaying key data.

The initial project’s success led to the continuous growth of Northrop’s digital signage network—today, the Space Park campus has 80 screens—but the use cases have also increased. Over time, the team added digital signage to its breakrooms and hallways, but those locations did not display production or wayfinding information. Instead, the screens in those areas were dedicated to organizational employee comms like anniversaries and new hire introductions. Additionally, they were used to celebrate significant accomplishments like the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope—a project that many team members at the Space Park had worked on for years.

With a multi-decade project like the James Webb Space Telescope, some people had spent their entire careers working on it. So, when it launched, there was a lot of pride, and we absolutely featured that—and the teams responsible—on our signs. Everyone loved seeing that.
—Oscar Castillo

Using the digital signage program at the Space Park as a blueprint, NGC's Chandler, Arizona, and Palmdale, California, facilities have each implemented screens to solve similar challenges. Due to the success of digital signage at the Space Park location, Poppulo now powers hundreds of digital signs across Northrop Grumman’s facilities. Leveraging innovative technology and a commitment to continuous improvement, NGC has created a more connected and productive workplace environment, reinforcing its dedication to excellence in all operations.

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