New QC protocols at Bell Helicopter rely on Extech humidity and temperature chart recorder
Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, Bell Helicopter Textron is an industry-leading producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical lift aircraft and the pioneer of the revolutionary tilt rotor aircraft.
Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, Bell Helicopter Textron is an industry-leading producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical lift aircraft and the pioneer of the revolutionary tilt rotor aircraft. Globally recognized for world-class customer service, innovation and superior quality, Bell’s global workforce serves customers flying Bell aircraft in more than 120 countries.
Kevin Tyler, a quality supervisor at Bell Helicopter, Textron, explained that Bell’s reputation not only relies on its storied history but also on its commitment to quality. As Tyler said, “That commitment is seen at every Bell assembly facility. My focus is to maintain strict environmental controls that ensure conditions in the physical plant do not impact the quality of sensitive helicopter components or their assembly.”
At Bell, if temperature or humidity in an assembly area is out of compliance, a quality control policy goes into effect to identify, repair and resume normal operations within a four-hour window. That aggressive timeline means that, within the course of a shift, Bell needed an effective way to:
• Quickly detect if temperature or humidity were out of compliance across numerous assembly sites.
• Implement processes to store and protect parts from the non-compliant environment.
• Contact plant maintenance to trace the source of the HVACR anomaly and repair it.
• Resume normal operating conditions.
The clock never stops ticking and the pressure was on to find a way to implement this sequence of procedures effectively with rapid discovery and minimal downtime. Like many plants, Tyler’s numerous sites relied on paper-based circular chart recorders to document recent trends in temperature and humidity. Twice a shift, these devices required staff to stop what they were doing, visit each chart recorder throughout the plants, and check readings for non-compliance. Often, these chart recorders ran out of paper or the pens had dried out, turning the quick spot checks into longer maintenance visits. Tyler also found that paper-based loggers were more prone to going out of calibration, causing devices to be out of service frequently.
Tyler and Bell finally made the decision to go paperless and installed 24 of Extech’s RH520A humidity and temperature chart recorders around his sites. This digital recorder not only displays numerical temperature and humidity readings, its large, easy-to-read LCD display also features a graphical line chart that allows at-a-glance viewing of recent trending information.
In addition to replacing the monitoring capabilities of previous devices, Tyler was also able to program audible and visible temperature and humidity alarms for high and low thresholds with the Extech chart recorders. Now, staff in the area are alerted to any non-compliant conditions almost immediately. Procedures to protect parts being manufactured are enacted promptly, and requests for maintenance and repair are submitted quickly.
Tyler’s implementation of an updated humidity and temperature monitoring process with Extech’s RH520 digital chart recorder has been more of a success than he had ever imagined. The recorders are so popular at the organization’s various locations that Tyler recently ordered another half-dozen because quality control staff from other sites were often borrowing them. The Extech paperless chart recorder also helped Tyler easily exceed Bell Helicopter’s 30-day record-keeping requirements: he now saves 11 months of data on each device, backing up data every six months to a hard drive.
Quality and Customer Service
This was not Tyler’s first foray into paperless data loggers; however, the ones he had selected and purchased from different manufacturers were unreliable for the job. In fact, Tyler was shocked to discover that 40 percent of the devices locked up during data downloading. Furthermore, the companies were providing poor customer service. Conversely, he said that when he did have to resolve a problem with an Extech device, “No customer service department has ever made me as happy as Extech’s. Customer service was friendly, helpful, and responsive and took a no-hassle approach to taking care of the problem fast.”
Rapid ROI with Extech
From a return-on-investment (ROI) perspective, Tyler estimates that the move to the Extech chart recorders now saves Bell Helicopter an estimated $27,000 a year in labor and supply expenses. The recorders paid for themselves within months.
In the end, Tyler actually formalized and implemented temperature and humidity compliance policies for the facilities he monitors with the Extech data logger as a key part of that process. Because of the effectiveness of the policy he authored, more and more Bell Helicopter sites are adopting it. The compliance policy ensures that Bell plants monitor temperature and humidity accurately with maintenance-free recorders. And when HVACR failures are detected, they can implement a responsive protocol that protects parts in assembly and gets repairs started promptly. The bottom line, as Tyler puts it: “We’re implementing them all over the place.”
Looking Ahead: More Applications at Bell
Tyler is so thrilled with his Extech chart recorders that he is now evaluating them for new applications such as temperature monitoring in walk-in freezers. With the resounding success at Bell Helicopter, Tyler is sold on the Extech Advantage™–Innovation, Support, and Selection: “Next time I need to buy a test and measurement device, I would definitely consider what Extech has to offer.”