767 line to become leaner and quicker
Now picture the band, still producing music, moving to a smaller concert hall where they’ll be expected to play a new song without losing a beat.
That’s what Boeing Co. 767 workers will do over the next year — except, of course, with major aircraft parts, large tools and a lean manufacturing line. While they’re increasing the pace of production, 767 employees also will move into a smaller space and learn a more efficient way of putting together aircraft.
Sounds easy, right?
Just one more thing: Boeing workers are trying to impress an important customer — the U.S. Air Force — in the process.
Industrial engineer Cherlyn Hernandez spends her days at Boeing simulating on a computer the way the new 767 production line will work. By early next year, Boeing will consolidate its 767 line, which is strung out over three bays inside the Everett factory.
The move accommodates the 787 “surge line.” It’s a temporary production line in Everett meant to keep things running smoothly on Boeing’s new 787 as a second permanent line in South Carolina gets started.
“I think it’s the perfect opportunity to change,” said Hernandez, whose husband works on Boeing’s 777 line.
To accommodate the 767’s new home, though, Boeing will shave off a corner of its factory. Final assembly will take place at the back end of the factory, where the company will need to install one of its massive doors. If Boeing should win the Air Force tanker contract, the first 767 tanker would roll out of the factory not in the front, but on the other side.
“Every step that we take, we keep the tanker in consideration,” Hernandez said.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Hernandez would have a “better sense of security” if Boeing wins the tanker contract.
Of course, industrial process engineers such as Hernandez also keep in mind the company’s existing 767s — both the passenger and freighter versions.
With or without the $35 billion tanker contract, Boeing will ramp up production on its 767 as it shrinks the 767 footprint inside the Everett factory.
“If we don’t land the tanker, we’ve still got a few years to build out” (the remaining 57 commercial jet orders, said Greg Hopp, a manufacturing supervisor for the 767 wings.
Late this year, Boeing plans to increase the pace of production on its 767 commercial jet to three aircraft every two months. Workers build about one 767 each month today. By June 2011, they’ll double that rate and deliver two aircraft every 30 days.
In the middle of the move and the production ramp-up, Boeing is establishing a lean 767 manufacturing line, similar to the more efficient way it builds 777 jets.
“We’re working on leaning down the process,” said Hopp, a 41-year-old Snohomish resident.
This method of manufacturing reduces waste and time, ultimately cutting costs — which could prove essential in Boeing’s bid to win the Air Force tanker contract.
Hopp has worked on the 747, 777 and Boeing’s B-2 bomber programs as well as the 767 line. He doesn’t spend much time these days riveting. Instead, Hopp spends most of his time “mistake-proofing” and problem-solving in the 767 wings manufacturing area.
Like many Boeing employees, Hopp didn’t plan to make a career of working for the company.
“I was hired on as a kid,” he said. “If we get this tanker contract, I would love to retire out on the 767.”
Tanker by the numbers
1965: Year of last delivery
200,000: Maximum pounds of fuel transferred
732: Number of planes produced
415: the number of tankers that have been given new engines and/or increased fuel capacity.
180: Number of planes remaining in active duty.
235: Number of additional tankers with Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.
$39.6 million: cost for each plane.
900: the number of gallons per minute
Boeing’s 767 Commercial airplane program
1982: Date of first delivery.
57: Remaining commercial orders
984: Commercial deliveries
1: Number produced each month
Boeing’s NewGen 767 tanker
12,000: Number of jobs that Boeing says its tanker will create in Washington state.
372: Number of Air Force requirements that the tanker will need to meet.
$10 billion: Amount of money Boeing says its tanker saves in fuel costs, compared to EADS’ tanker.
40: The number of years the Air Force expects to operate the new tanker.
Sources: www.af.mil; Boeing.com
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