New plant will be ‘best of Boeing’

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Boeing Co. is building more than a new airplane in South Carolina, it’s building a future.

That future starts with a factory — the second final assembly plant for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner.

But Boeing is transforming its Charleston campus — moving one of the roads around the airport, building a welcome center, and creating a delivery center.

And there will be the place that Marco Cavazzoni, vice president of final assembly and delivery, hopes Boeing employees regard as “Cheers” — the friendly neighborhood bar featured in a television sitcom of the same name. The building will serve as an employee center and cafeteria where workers from all of Boeing’s buildings there can meet.

“What we’re trying to do is leverage the best of Boeing here,” said Jim Davis, who’s in charge of 787 final assembly.

Final assembly

In leveraging the best of Boeing, the company is keen on fixing past mistakes.

“Our production system is going to be very common with Everett’s,” Davis said.

However, the second line in Charleston will have some key differences. When Boeing set up its original final assembly line in Everett, the company proudly talked about doing away with overhead cranes as a sign of just how revolutionary its new jet is. The final assembly lines both in Everett and Charleston ultimately will receive completed large assemblies from suppliers and fit those parts together in a process that is expected to take only three days.

In Everett, Boeing tried to use its “Mother of All Tools Tower” to join large sections. In South Carolina, the company will rely on overhead cranes to position the vertical tail, said Tim Coyle, vice president of Boeing South Carolina.

“A lean (manufacturing) zealot might say that a crane is evil,” Davis said.

The overhead cranes in Everett are a shared resource, at times putting stress on the production system when demand for crane work exceeds capacity. In North Charleston, however, the overhead crane in the new final assembly factory has no competition for its use.

Another difference from Everett: Boeing will use simplified tooling for joining the wing to the body, Davis said.

Many Boeing employees who will eventually work on the final assembly line already have been hired and either are being trained or already are working in the other factories, Cavazzoni said. Boeing has embedded in Everett managers who will transfer to South Carolina, Davis said.

“The interaction with Everett has been great,” Cavazzoni said. “You’ve got some great people in Everett.”

Boeing plans to open its final assembly site next July, which made for a short timeline to clear the land and build a 692,000-square-foot factory. But Rick Muttart, who’s responsible for overseeing construction at the site for Boeing, has been pleased with the work of the construction team and the help of local government officials.

“Local government folks call wanting to help,” he said. “The building department can be on site within 15 minutes, 24 hours a day.”

Delivery center

“With delivery, it’s all about the customer,” said Dave Palmer, who’s in charge of operations of the yet-to-be built delivery center.

The delivery center will open in September 2011.

One of Boeing’s challenges in North Charleston was that the airport lacked a special event facility, like the Future of Flight that sits across Paine Field from Boeing’s Everett factory.

In hiring for the delivery center, Palmer said he’s looking for “the ambassadors of the Boeing Co.” Workers will go through 24 weeks of training for delivery center jobs, he said.

Welcome center

Eventually, Boeing also will build a welcome center for its South Carolina site, as well as an interiors center that will be located several miles from the main Boeing campus.

In the welcome center, Cavazzoni wants to feature pictures and facts about Boeing’s history in the Puget Sound area and around the world to help his South Carolina workers become more familiar with their company. He downplays any competition or animosity between Boeing workers in Washington and those in South Carolina.

“We’ve got to be one team,” he said.

“Everybody will benefit if Boeing is successful in South Carolina.”

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