Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Competition Starts With Cement Slabs at Boeing

All the fixtures are bolted down on cement slabs. Fixtures are measured in tons and tons and need a lot of cement on which to sit upon. The 777 factory in Everett has major challenges as the order was given "continue 777-300-ER production while building a 777X and yeah it's in the same place". The problem is not so much a continuous flow from the 777-300-ER and back to the 777X in the same gigantic space, but having divergent technologies colliding on the factory floor.

Image result for Everett 777 production plant

A plastic wing assembled on a 777X is completely different than an aluminum wing attached to the 777-300ER. These are no small potatoes rolling through the assembly hall. The problem is so complex it will take a team of planners, engineers and mechanics in order to solve the gigantic puzzle. The final solution is years in the making going forward. The 777-300ER will be built for an additional ten years or longer, as the 777X becomes the new standard. In fact the 777-300ER may never be out of favor for some of Boeing's customers, as found with its 767. Freight 767's for FedEx and the KC-46's for the military both having recent orders is proving the modular space flexibility of building different purpose built types on the same line/space as a goal.

The production dance requires a little drop in productivity in the near term. A timely introduction with a new and different type of aircraft (777X) massive assembly is required. This "change" is from using CFRP wings and other components inserted on the 777X and then Boeing flips back to building a 777-300ER all in the same space at the same time. The Boeing dance is mapped out with use of "modular space" and the production floor changes after each milestone is reached for which changes the process flow. 

A definition of modular space: "is a space having an open architecture area flexible enough for installation of new processes and equipment designated for that process. Change within space is complimentary of change within the process occupying that space."  

Here's the plant's team feedback, "Get-er-done"


In an office building, a company may renovated 3,000 square feet at a time. However, Boeing will make and then close production bays as needed having the heft of 150,000 square per bay. Imagine an area the size of a Super Costco and then one can imagine the temporary space that each stage needs. Each inserting its footprint or closing a production bay as maturity of production process requires. The 777 production is so complicated it must transition towards a bi-production process of building different but similar aircraft each having different technologies all on the same line.

Boeing will leap frog production space as it transitions towards having the 777X model inserted into the Everett facility. Boeing must build every modular space with the capability of supporting immense manufacturing weights. Hence, a six foot thick cement slab is poured into a factory floor in order to take on any task the space may face in the next fifty years. 

Currently Boeing engineers are digging dirt that supported the 747 process back in 1968. A sense of flexibility for change on a massive scale is felt as if Boeing was tasked to move a cement Dam every 50 years while a river changes direction. The 777X impact is that river, and Boeing is digging deep before the year 2020 comes when the ramping up for the 777X process merges with the 777-300ER process. Both model must seamlessly keep the production flow going forward without any conflicting manufacturing impedance.

Boeing is challenging Airbus at the always improving state of mind.