Bharat Electronics Ltd – Military Radars

Brief Description of the Project

Title : Execution of Radar-X for Export (Armenia)

Team : Military Radars -Strategic Business Unit (MR-SBU), BEL

To successfully execute the Radar-X for Export (Armenia), quantity 4 No., in the stipulated timeline of 8 months as against the current timeline of 18 months and overcoming the challenges of post delivery maintenance hurdles, a new foreign language requirement for communication & documentation and production related issues due to reliability, obsolescence and lack of support from OEM for critical parts of the system.

Trigger for the project

What is Radar-X: The Radar-X is a prestigious project for Military Radars SBU , contributing to more than 53% of the turnover for MR SBU for last few years.

Radar-X is a mobile radar system designed for automatic first-round location of artillery weapons. In-flight track data is used to extrapolate hostile projectile trajectories to the firing point. Also, friendly projectile trajectories can be tracked for registration of friendly fire. Thus, RADAR-X acts as a force multiplier in the battle field. The main types of weapon against which Radar-X is designed are Mortars, Rocket Launchers and Guns. The Radar-X is a two vehicle configuration consisting of the Radar Vehicle and Power Source cum BITE vehicle.

Business need: BEL Bagged the order for manufacturing 30 Radars. After successful trials, the Radar-X was inducted into the Indian armed forces. During the period 2017-2019 BEL has delivered 30 Radars at various field locations of India. As the execution for Indian Armed forces was drawing to a close, BEL was on the lookout for new orders for the equipment. The MR SBU was particularly looking for an avenue to tap into the export business potential for its sustenance. For this the product was exhibited in various international defence exhibitions.

Customer requirement: During 2018, an Armenian Team having seen the product in one of the defence expos, later witnessed the firing trials of Radar-X and showed interest in the product. In a major breakthrough for BEL and MR SBU, Armenia signed a contract with BEL for the supply of 4 RADAR-X on 25th May 2019. BEL had won the contract against global competitors. Armenia was the first European country to procure Defence equipment worth 40 million from India. A proud moment for India, who was once upon a time searching for a solution to equip its armed forces, was now capable of exporting it to a foreign nation.

The Challenges: The crucial challenge of bagging of an export order for an indigenously developed defence equipment was met. However, many challenges lay ahead. Involvement of various external providers and various units of Bharat electronics in providing parts for the system and the involvement of various customer agencies in the validation process makes the execution of the project in time a challenge.

The major challenges seen in the execution of RADAR-X -Export are as follows—

  1. Realization in Short Cycle time: The standard cycle time for manufacturing of 4 units of Radar-X was 18 months. The contract called for 18 months of lead time. Customer requested for further reduction in lead time. Considering the geopolitical scenario in and across the Customer’s location, the request was honoured. Manufacturing of 4 units of RADAR-X in a record time of 8 months was in itself a major challenge considering the changes required to be carried out to suit the export, the procurement process time, long lead times from partners and the integration cycle time.
  1. Breaking the Language Barrier: As the equipment had to be deployed on a foreign land, that too a non-English speaking nation, language of communication and operation was a barrier. Also, Armenia wanted documentation in Russian. This being a project of national interest and security, the liberty to trust a third party for translation of manuals from English to Russian was ruled out.
  1. Crossing Post Delivery Support Hurdles: The equipment already deployed at various locations of the nation had to undergo preventive maintenance for up keeping of the RADAR operation. Extending the same frequency of preventive maintenance on a foreign land was neither feasible to BEL nor was acceptable by the customer.
  1. Over Coming Production Issues: RADAR-X has evolved to the current phase from past two decades. Issues related to production, obsolescence, quality and reliability had surfaced. The fact that many parts of these subsystems come from foreign source makes it highly challenging to realize these subsystems in time for the RADAR-X export. These issues had to be addressed.
  1. Solution generation, Innovation and Complexity
    1. Realization in Short Cycle time:The first challenge of Realization in Short Cycle time was addressed by following 3-pronged approach: Procurement process time, Long Lead times from partners and Integration/Assembly time
  1. Procurement process time:
  1. Project: Six sigma

Project Details: The goal was to reduce the cycle time to access the contact details of vendors from an average of 8 hours to couple of minutes. This was made possible by building an on line Sequential Query Language based vender contact database and ease of access was given to relevant stake holders through .net web-based user interface.

Achievement: The sigma value increased from nearly 0 to 3 sigma.(Fig 2)

  1. Project: Six sigma

Project Details: Second project under taken was for optimization of the process of sending enquiry for the requirements. This was done by transforming the existing matrix based structure to project based structure. Where in the processing of PRs for sending enquiry is centralized. This facilitated in faster pace of operation and better control over the process (Fig 3).

Achievement: The sigma value increased from nearly 0 to 2.9 sigma.(Fig 4)

  1. Long Lead times from partners:

Project: Alternate Sourcing

  • Antenna Assembly is manufactured by BEL-GAD unit with a lead time of 9 months. On study it was revealed that major portion of this lead time was consumed in arranging the special grade Aluminum from Germany. After doing vigorous survey throughout the country and following stringent quality checks the item was obtained from an indigenous source within a shorter time. This resulted in reduction of the cycle time for manufacturing of the antenna assembly from 9 months to 5 months.
  • Slew Ring Assembly is manufactured by our BEL Chennai unit, which had a lead time of 9 months. The bottle neck was manufacturing of the bearing at Heavy Vehicle Factory, Avadi. Numerous vendors were approached in the country for the purpose of building an alternate source to offload the load. As it was difficult to obtain the required quality, volume within the time line within India, a Russian source was identified who was able to machine the bearing in a very short duration. This lead to the reduction of cycle time to manufacture the Slew ring assembly from 9 months to 5 months.
  • Battery Pack Li-Ion: This part was previously sourced from a foreign vendor. Due to explosive nature of item it could be transported only through sea shipment. Hence it was having a long lead time of 15 months. Efforts were put to develop an alternate Indian source which was successful. This resulted in reduction of the cycle time for sourcing of the Battery Packs from 15 months to 3 months and resulted in a savings of Rs. 4 Lakhs.
  1. Integration/Assembly time:

Project: Improvement project-CQE

Project Details: The kitting activity used to be initiated on having 80-85% of items in stock after procurement. This activity was advanced to an earlier phase of the process flow (Fig 5). Where in soon after the MRP Run and first round of stock is pegged is completed. At this stage free stock items, which are already in the stores, are pegged to the project account. This gave sufficient lead time to address the issues related to stock discrepancy / quality of the raw material stored, without hampering the speed of assembly/integration.

Project: Schedule Compression

Project details: The standard time to integrate 1 RADAR-X that is 15 days and unit production mode (serial) took 60 days of time for integration of 4 RADARS. By designing multiple SOPs, Templates, Jigs and Fixtures, the cycle time was reduced for 1 RADAR to 7 days, totaling to 7*4=28 days (Fig 6). The mode of production was changed from unit to batch production with 4 teams deployed to work on 4 systems simultaneously in shifts. This led to a significant reduction in integration time for 4 RADARS from 60 days to 7 days.

    1. Breaking the Language Barrier:

Project: Bridging the Competency GAP

Project Details: The Customer wanted all the manuals in Russian language. In order to build the Internal competency of the team, a 90 hours Russian language program was inculcated to the project Engineers. This not only enabled the change of language in manuals to Russian language but also paved way towards redesigning the software to incorporate Russian language in all the user interfaces (Fig 7).

  1. Crossing Post Delivery Support Hurdles:

Hydraulic Jack: Hydraulic jack is an important subsystem of the RADAR and plays crucial role during deployment and operation by providing the required elevation and stability to the antenna assy. This has major impact on the accuracy of the RADAR output. The presence of rubber items like seals and gaskets; frequent failures of valves; oil contamination and leakages, makes the system prone to failures. Frequent preventive maintenance activities carried out to address this was not feasible for the export project. Multiple brain storming sessions with design department, various vendors resulted in change of the design from Hydraulic system to Electromechanical system. The major advantages of Electromechanical stabilizer are that it has a maintenance free life of 3 years, are motorized when compared to manual mode of operation in the previous design and is more rugged and reliable (Fig 8).

3.4 Over Coming Production Issues:

The challenges in production were mainly related to obsolescence and consequent Reliability issues in Subsystems- System Computer, 20.1” Display, Synthetic display and Programmable Signal processing unit. The parts of these subsystems come from foreign sources makes it highly challenging to realize these subsystems in time for the RADAR-X export.

  1. System Computer.

Project: Six sigma

Project Details: The failure rate of System computer was 47 % . 91 % of failure was happening during the production test procedures. As different types of issues were occurring and issues were popping up at various environmental test conditions like vibration, high temperature and Damp heat, it became very difficult to find the root cause of the failures and hence this case was taken up as a six sigma case study by the team. The initial yield was only 52.3 %. (Fig 9)

Analysis: By validating the causes using cause and effect diagram we arrived at 1 major potential cause and two minor causes. 80 % of the failure were occurring in the VME chassis. The VME chassis is supplied by the OEM ELMA which is a UK based company and is integrated with the help of external provider RTTS, Bangalore. Further analysis revealed three issues happening in the VME Chassis. An inter relationship Digraph was made to analyze why some of the power supplies were permanently failing (Fig 11)

  1. Issue: The power supply connector pin inside the VME Chassis was flaring up during the crimping process, resulting in intermittent contact which was disrupting the power supply in the system computer

Rectification: Introduction of dimension checks at M/s RTTS (External provider) end during the integration

  1. Issue: The internal VME chassis was vibrating independently with respect to the outer chassis and the wires were rubbing against the baffle plates resulting in the wires insulation getting chaffed off. So whenever the wire touches the baffle plates, it was creating a short and affecting the power supply. This was due to an error in the OEM’s process

Rectification: Providing insulating sheets and edging strip at critical points like the fan tray edges (Fig 11). These changes were introduced in the process of M/s Elma (UK based OEM)

  1. 20.1” display.

20.1” display is used along with the Radar scan converter and Synthetic display subsystems. The display is made by France based OEM IRTS and is integrated through the external provider RTTS Bangalore. The issue was that there was a high rate of failure of around 50 % during the environmental stress screening. And considering the high rate of failure we involved the OEM IRTS at BEL to identify the root cause and rectify the issues. The first issue was that the low temperature issue and the root cause was identified to the routing of the LVDS cable which was routed very close to the heater cable inside the display (Fig 12). The issue was rectified by the OEM at BEL.

The second issue was failure in high temperatures and Damp heat. The issue was related to the control board of the display and the control board was already on its way out due to obsolescence and giving reliability issues. This resulted in a search for an alternate source / new design

  1. Synthetic Display

The synthetic display subsystem consists of a Main processing unit, functional keyboard and 20.1 “ display. The cards inside the main processing unit comes from Adlink USA. The functional keyboard is in house manufactured by BEL and the 20.1” display comes from IRTS France.The graphic cards and CPCI card of the main processing unit were having high failures (45.5 % failure rate) during the environmental tests and the functional keyboard was having complex switches in it making it very difficult to test and troubleshoot (Fig 13)

Low key response from the external provider and long lead time to rectify the boards from the OEM made it highly impossible to get the parts on time for the export and this led to looking for an alternate source / new design..

  1. Programmable Signal processing Unit

The programmable signal processing subsystem has two PCBs called DIF and DIC PCBs which have multiple FPGAs in it (Fig 14). These FPGAs were obsolete. Hence the BEL Design team worked to provide a single board solution with a single FPGA.

  1. Beam Steering Unit:

Many components required for this assembly were obsolete. Design activities were undertaken in collaboration with an India source. An improved product was designed and lead to a cost saving of Rs. 95.37 Lakhs

  1. Implementation

The implementations were carried out with different team working on various improvement projects, six sigma, and design changes. Five project management (PMP) Templates like Issue logs, Timelines and stakeholder register provided the implementation structure for the project management. The implementation phase involved the support of External providers and OEM from across the world, with whose help the highly challenging task of correcting OEM/ external provider processes and developments of new design was made possible.

  1. System Computer : Improvements in VME Chassis achieved an yield of 95.5 %, with a savings of 18 + lakhs and 600 + man hours saved. During the implementation, improvements in the process and product of the OEM ELMA and the process of external provider RTTS were carried out (Fig 15).

Risk Mitigation : Considering the lessons learnt and the risk, parallel action was initiated to look for an alternate source and our design team came up with a new design provided by Ayur (Fig 15) .... with savings on indigenization being 41.88 lakhs. The new design was much better in terms of maintainability.

  1. 20.1 “ display: The wiring process issues in the 20.1 “ display was rectified by the OEM M/s IRTS (Fig 16)..

Risk Mitigation :The risk of end of life of critical boards in the display was addressed by looking for an alternate source which was provided by Paras defence systems (Fig 16). The indigenization gave us a savings of 17 lakhs plus for 4 sets of RADAR-X

  1. Synthetic display: New Design for synthetic display was provided by Paras defence systems was able to provide a better solution- a modular single integrated panel PC with a simpler Keyboard (Fig 17).

Risk Mitigation :There was a high risk of the equipment failing in ESS Tests considering the completely new design. To mitigate the same, several iterations of evaluation with the external provider was done and this indigenization enabled considerable savings of more than 286 lakhs.

  1. PSPU: The change in design of the DIF and DIF Board to a single board (Fig 18) has enabled reduction in testing, troubleshooting and manufacturing time and has resulted in a savings of more than 40 lakhs.
  1. Results/ Impact: Results/ Impact is as shown in Table 1
  1. Resource impact: Resources impact on drastic reduction in lubricant/ coolant and reduction in carbon footprint and e waste is as shown in Table 2
  1. Business metrics: Business metrics achieved is as shown in Table 3
  1. External recognitions / Internal stakeholder appreciation and other additional info: Appreciation for the project from various agencies is as shown in Table 4
  2. Scope for horizontal deployment

With the execution of Radar-X – Export, the Brand of BEL has expanded beyond the nations boundary and is facilitating expansion of business across the globe supporting BELs vision of becoming a world class enterprises in Professional Electronics. Several other countries have shown interest in the product.

The changes in products and processes are currently in operation for a new project RADAR- Y.

Note: Confidential information like Name of the projects and Direct costs have been indicated as X / Y

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