Virgin Galactic unveils new manufacturing facility for satellite launcher
Virgin Galactic has announced that it has leased a new facility in Long Beach, California for the design and manufacture of its small satellite launcher, LauncherOne.
The 150,000 square foot facility is intended to produce LauncherOne rockets “at quantity,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in a statement. “With New Mexico’s magnificent Spaceport America for our commercial spaceflight operations, our Mojave facilities for WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo production, and now our new facility in Long Beach for LauncherOne, we are building capability to serve our expanding customer community.”
LauncherOne is a two stage rocket that is intended to deliver small satellite payloads of 500 pounds or less. Like Virgin Galactic’s passenger spacecraft, it will be launched by the company’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. The company aims to be able to deliver satellites into orbit for a price of less than $10 million.
The new manufacturing facility is located across the street from Long Beach Airport, where the WhiteKnightTwo will fly from to deliver its customers’ payloads. The company also announced today that it was going to be hosting a job fair in March, looking for positions to work at its new manufacturing facility.
The company has already contracted with several companies to deliver satellites. Among them is satellite internet service is OneWeb, which the Virgin Group and Qualcomm have both invested in.
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.