Breaking Barriers: Virgin Orbit uses their Data to Drive Critical Business Results
Virgin Orbit is a part of the overall Virgin Group. The company of 390 employees was founded in 2017 and is located in Long Beach, CA. Their primary business is cargo delivery – putting cubesats in Low Earth Orbit for research, communications and similar use cases. Currently, the engineering team is integrating rockets, developing their launch manifest, and preparing for their initial orbital flights that will launch the smallsat revolution. They use a Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet named Cosmic Girl to carry rocket LauncherOne to an altitude of 35,000 feet, releasing the rocket with the payload to orbit.
Background – Virgin Orbit’s Integration Journey
Virgin Orbit started on an integration journey in 2017. They didn’t have systematic solutions, rather integrating their various softwares consisted of a bunch of paperwork, workbooks, collecting data and tracking changes manually. In order to scale production, they needed to digitize and implement the right processes around what to build, how to collect data, and the controls they need to put in place. In order to achieve this, they needed a proper manufacturing execution system (MES system), which is the reason they chose Jitterbit as their integration solution. The MES system is solving many issues Virgin Orbit was facing. Jitterbit is being utilized as an extension of their MES system because it can integrate MES tightly into their ERP and PLM, which is absolutely critical to their production.
A key pain point was the cost of managing the implementation outside of the systems. Hiring more people to manage and compile information into something meaningful was expensive. Development throughout the manufacturing process is critical for Virgin Orbit. They need to turn around projects quickly. They have to go from requirements to build to a working product seamlessly. If the process isn’t efficient, it impacts how the data that is moving between systems. The key points Jitterbit is helping to solve is the ability to deliver quick and efficient system of records, and systematic records around what needs to be built inside manufacturing BOMs, which are business critical documents that describe exactly how a product needs to be built.
They have three major projects focused around three systems and within each of the projects, there are some common operations and some specific operations. Each project is made up of around 20-30 operations, resulting in approximately 100 operations in total. When they kicked off their MES system implementation project they knew that at some point they would be bringing on additional systems.When they added Teamcenter PLM they realized that they would need to build point-to-point integration between the PLM and ERP. Considering they are adding on more systems, they realized that many integration points would need to be built because of the high volume of data that is constantly moving between their systems. At this point, it made sense for Virgin Orbit to look at an integration solution rather than build a point-to-point integration themselves.
“Jitterbit is easy to work with and it saved us from having to hire additional staff and using up internal resources that could be useful on other projects. We didn’t have any middleware. We went from not having any connectivity to having all systems seamlessly connected.” – Andrzej Goryca
A primary focus was to enhance the design and manufacturing process, where they would generate an engineering BOM from the design system. The engineering system would then transfer it into the manufacturing system, where it becomes an MBOM. Previously, they had to wait for a specific date that transfers occurred. On top of the wait time, there could be multiple mistakes, as it was laborious in the sense that it required someone to manually manage the process. Today, the engineering BOM automatically moves into the MES system and it can be worked on upon release of the engineering BOM immediately.
The way that Virgin Orbit measures success is by timeliness, budget, and metrics against the original estimated execution and expectation.
To Virgin Orbit employee enablement through rapid access to data was very important. Their employees were operating through consumption of vast amount of data that needed to be utilized when making decisions on how to design, build, test and fly the rocket. Having all of that data available electronically would prove to be a significant time saver; it also enables faster development with more exact, and intelligent variations of their product or manufacturing processes. Rapid access to data is a fundamental enabler for Virgin Orbit in order to be able to introduce new functionality or capabilities.
Key Capabilities of an Optimal Integration Solution
Virgin Orbit looked at several other integration solutions but decided to go with Jitterbit from both a business and technical standpoint. One of the primary drivers was that some of the other solutions (such as Oracle Integration Cloud) was too expensive. Plus, they wanted to be able to leverage API integration that Jitterbit could offer, which some of the other vendors did not offer. Finally, a major reason for choosing Jitterbit was that Virgin Orbit could deploy local agents behind their firewall to orchestrate the integrations.
In the end, Jitterbit was the best fit for Virgin Orbit because they wanted to be able to easily learn and use the application and offered good support when they needed to make changes.
Today, Virgin Orbit is using Jitterbit for more than just integration. They also using Jitterbit to learn where its queries are sourced. This use case was developed by their team internally and is used to alert their team on transactions and business events, such as converting PO’s, fire notifications when an item is received plus many other alerts that help to move production forward. Many of these triggers have been developed on their Solumina Manufacturing system that has a very weak framework for alerts. Oracle’s alerts were not as efficient so the team needed to go to IT Convergence every time an alert was raised.
The process of implementation of Jitterbit was done in a very short time span and came in under budget. If there were any issues, the team was able to respond and resolve them quickly. By implementing Jitterbit, Virgin Orbit is no longer experience delays in executing their production schedules. This has resulted in their team making incredible progress by removing various logistical challenges. They didn’t experience delays and instead made incredible progress by removing logistical challenges. They came in under budget on their implementation.
“If I can compare to integrations I have done in the past it is impossible to compare because of the difference in quality. The new integrations are built quicker. I base that on how the information flows so much better, as well as how the latest rocket us built quicker than the first rocket we built. There are other factors that could contribute to the quickness of the build so I think once we do this over and over we can then look at the metrics and really see the overall value.” – Andrzej Goryca
One project that Virgin Orbit is working on and leveraging Jitterbit for is a smart document parser, which is going to parse invoices and quotes from vendors, then convert them into objects so that they can populate the purchase of acquisitions automatically, instead of entering it manually. This is their venture into machine learning. They have many more uses for machine learning across quality, manufacturing, operations, and inspections that we will tackle together soon.
Moving forward, iBASEt is working on exposing their logic as APIs through a product they call Solumina. They have already published a newer version of their software that is API surfaced, which Virgin Orbit is testing..They would either rework them to be APIs at some point and eliminate technical debt or start leveraging it for more innovative initiatives where they would to leverage augmented reality (AI), such as things outside the Solumina user experience interface and build their own Virtual Reality (VR) layer that can connect to their systems such as Megaseal, Oracle, Solumina and others.
Virgin Orbit considers Jitterbit to be a valid option to use in this case. This way they do not have to build point to point API integrations but rather leverage a platform that can do it for them.
Virgin Orbit is committed to moving towards being an “Enterprise of the Future”, where they will be able to reach beyond the factory walls with integrating technologies of the future. .They are looking to orchestrate machine integration, mainly because they have relatively modern machines that churn huge volume of IoT data. They are also exploring industry 4.0, robotics and human augmentation use cases in the future where automation is working side-by-side with humans. They are planning to leverage Jitterbit in order to deliver the connectivity goals of their “Enterprise of the Future” initiative. They expect to start connecting to the various the devices in 2019, and are determined to accomplish this initiative by 2020.
Oracle E-Business Suite, Siemens Teamcenter PLM, Solumina (Manufacturing), UltiPro (Payroll/HR)
- Areas of their quality control are not integrated and they are unable to move them over to Solumina.
- Once the team learned how to use the Jitterbit platform, they accelerated to the finish line. Before Jitterbit, the first interface took six weeks to build, whereas now they are able to complete interfaces in just two weeks.
- Virgin Orbit needed a middleware solution that could integrate the many business critical systems they rely on.
- Jitterbit has the ability to develop point-to-point interfaces at minimal cost.
- Jitterbit Harmony platform is agnostic, so it can support any future systems Virgin Orbit adds to the infrastructure.
- Jitterbit is easy to work with, which saved Virgin orbit from having to hire additional staff or use up internal resources.
- Jitterbit helps to move data between the systems and those systems help with automating the actions that users need to take.
- With Jitterbit, Virgin Orbit can develop interfaces on their own, which allows them to be a nimble and efficient.
Integration Use Cases:
- MES<>ERP<>PLM: move data for faster scheduling, costing and adding/removing resources for manufacturing.
- MES<>PLM<>Ultipro: measure the progress of engineering and manufacturing teams working on projects.
Key Success Metrics:
- Production runs (MRP) could only be done on-demand once every two weeks. Today, Virgin Orbit can run production twice a week, or every day if needed.
- It used to take Virgin Orbit eight weeks to build interfaces between systems, but now they are able to build within only two weeks.
- Using Jitterbit, Virgin Orbit is saving a significant amount of money as systems/manufacturing engineers could cost on average $100,000 per year.
- Historically Virgin Orbit had to wait a week to work on an MBOM after it was released from engineering, but now Manufacturing can start work instantly once the MBOM is released.
- They also saved three to five manufacturing engineers by having the data flowing automatically and leveraging the systems properly and in a timely manner. They no longer have to add staff and FTEs.
- Virgin Orbit estimates a 10X increase in the effectiveness of these technologies by trying them together into a “one user – one system” approach, and a 50% reduction in the time taken to achieve this.
- A $500K annual saving as compared to their incumbent way of managing integrations.