Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Boeing's 777X Production Philosophy, Build It Here Then There

By the year 2020 Boeing will build the 777X there after it builds in 40-24. The production bay 40-24 was Boeing's surge line for the 787 while it brought the 787 up to production speed while Charleston found its own 787 production chops. Boeing is thinking way ahead of the curve when sinking billions into a project. Boeing's smart people work everyday while overcoming seemly insurmountable obstacles.

One such obstacle is building the 777X with a non-traditional aviation production mode, because they are making it better for everyone concerned. The workers will have a reduction in force on the production floor while carpel tunnel surgeries will drop in numbers from the same group of people as its robotics insert its 60,000 fasteners with a stitching pattern, and while automatically providing precision for every single one of those 60,000 fasteners.

This requires a different production scheme from the traditional construction schemes from the 777-300 ER production era. The former era closely followed the Jig method of assembly, mating the production air-frame through fitting it to a Jig assembly with hundreds of worker drilling and filling in fasteners. Now the assembly process must accommodate a level of automation absorbing supplier inventory capable of assimilating a new automated process. This takes enormous time and a lot of trial and error learning within the production environment.

Remember those smart people mentioned earlier, well they need a place in which to overcome something new and something not tried before concerning the 777 family of aircraft. The 777X is immense and can't be flipped around like a garment on a sewing machine nor can robots keep changing an anchored position while using robotic automation within a continuos production flow. Robotics should follow the car manufacturer model. The work piece flows to the robotic application. How do you build the 777-300ER and the 777X in the same building space?

The 40-24 surge line will be open for 777X production at a pace where the smart people can perfect the assembly of the 777X in a workman like manner without interruption coming from the next 777-300ER pushing through and displacing the smart peoples work station. They will have space and time while installing not just equipment but evolving techniques matching the equipment, computers, and robots in a surge effort for making ready a production flow and skill set for the big floor.

Everett, WA bay 40-24, Boeing 787-9 in process.
Boeing Building 40-24 with one more 787-9 chambered in the barrel. Photo featured on All Things 787

The first 24 or so 777X will be built "on schedule" before 2020. The "schedule" is when the smart people gets it perfect before 2020. A drop the wrench moment is arriving in building 40-24 soon. The problem confronting the production team is meshing a new method into a working process using 24 777X's as a works in progress assault on the 777X before the year 2020 arrives. Bottom line, the Boeing people will have this covered only with another great effort. The reporting going forward will discuss the minutia road blocks along the way. Headlines will cover when a wrench is drop and the building goes silent for a minute. However the 777X is in the forming/storming stage before it moves forward to the full performing stage found in the main 777X production slot while the remaining 777-300's are to be built.

This is how it will be done today. I will be interested to see how they merge two different building styles with robotics and moving assembly lines for the 777X and the 777-300 for the last years of the 777-300-ER's production cycle.

Watch video for the moving assembly  line of a 777-300ER aircraft.