Across the entirety of Boeing’s 787 global supply chain from Charleston to China, Nagoya to Naples and Winnipeg to Washington, executives, manufacturing planners and engineers are in the late stages in developing a document that will dictate the future of the planet’s most ambitious industrial undertaking.
The document, known as Z18, the latest of 18 revisions to the 787 schedule, dictates all aspects of the fabrication, final assembly flow and customer delivery planning for each aircraft.
A preliminary version of Z18 has been examined by Boeing Commericial Airplanes CEO Scott Carson and is expected to be reviewed shortly by Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, senior program sources tell FlightBlogger.
Sources familiar with the schedule indicate that ZA001′s first flight is likely to be slated for the late November/early December time frame, with first delivery to Japan’s All Nippon Airways in the fourth quarter of 2010.
However, Boeing maintains that no decisions on the schedule have been made and the disclosure of the overall program timeline detailing first flight and aircraft certification will be announced by the end of September.
The development of Z18 is a closely held process that takes into account the short and long term production strategies, the ability of suppliers to ramp up and incorporate design changes, the capacity of final assembly operations, the requirements of airlines, as well as the financial considerations that impact the decision-making process.
Scott Fancher, 787 program vice president and general manager, was quoted in July as saying it was no secret that Boeing required a second final assembly line to support the production ramp up and meet the unprecedented demand for the aircraft.
Z18, as a result of this future requirement, could be the first program schedule that Boeing develops with provisions and planning for a second 787 assembly line in mind, no matter where it is located.
Fancher, who’s responsible for the implementation of the schedule will require more art than science, his role likened to that of an orchestra conductor, ensuring that each of the partners moves in unison at the required tempo.
- The latest on the Alenia/Section 46 wrinkles
- What does Net Change 5 mean for the program?
Photo Credit Andrew Sieber
One important part of the orchestra in the minds of Boeing planners isthe hold in fabrication at Alenia’s Grottaglie, Italy facility, howeverBoeing believes it has devised a plan to ensure that the hold won’timpact the planning for Z18.
Production does continue at Alenia, but Boeing confirmed thatfabrication of new barrels stopped on June 23rd. The company stoppedwinding any new barrel sections until the stringer edge step size canbe manufactured in such as way that does not wrinkle the skin of the Section 46 barrel.
Many were quick to assign blame that Boeing’s outsourcing strategy wasthe culprit for the halt, yet Richard Aboulafia, vice president ofanalysis at the Teal Group explains that this explanation ignores afundamental reality of the program.
“These are the best companies in the aerostructures world trying tograpple with building a completely new type of aircraft,” saysAboulafia referring to the majority composite construction of the 787.
Yet the episode also underscores a key reality of the 787 program: Thedesign of significant parts of the aircraft remain in flux enough toprompt an almost two-month halt in fabrication.
“The system is so fragile that it doesn’t take much to knock it offcourse. If you’re in control you can make it run properly, but there’ssteep learning curve here,” says one industry expert.
At the time the work stop order was given, Alenia held 15 44/46shipsets in Grottaglie. After deliveries in July and August to GlobalAeronautica, that number dropped to 13, with Airplanes 17-29 currentlyin process in Italy.
Boeing has a devised a patch to repair the wrinkled areas Airplanes 5through 29 to be applied in situ. The patch, Boeing says, will beapplied in two locations on the Section 46 barrel, just above the frameof door number three on the port and starboard side of the aircraft.The patches, whose impact on the aerodynamics or weight of the aircraftis negligible, will be no wider than the width of the door whichmeasures just under 50 inches wide.
Boeing says the patch “has already been designed and is being installednow at Global Aeronautica in South Carolina and will be installed atcompleted sections in Italy and Everett.”
In order to avoid disruption in the flow of deliveries from Alenia to Global Aeronautica in Charleston, SC, Boeing will resequence work onthe existing barrels sections currently in process in the factory. TheItalian aerostructures manufacturer with shift resources previouslyallocated to winding barrels to preparing the existing shipsets fordelivery.
For example, the installation of structural ribs and frames, a taskpreviously done sequentially, will be done concurrently with theassistance of the added resources. With the structural preparation ofthe existing shipsets accelerating, Boeing says it intends to shiftthose same resources back to winding and installing structure inbarrels for Airplane 30 and on once the redesign is complete,ultimately negating the halt in fabrication.
Boeing declined to specify how long barrel winding at Alenia could behalted for before the situation does impact planning for the Z18 orsubsequent schedules. Though Boeing quickly adds that “there is noreason to think that it will affect schedule.”
The delicate balance of shifting resources is risky, adds the industry expert, especially with theuse of composite structural material from a supplier that has alreadydemonstrated quality assurance issues in the past. Composite tape, once removed from its cold storage,will slowly cure even at room temperature if not properly handled.
“If you’re going to do work on a couple of fuselages concurrently, youbetter have your [quality control] processes really in charge andreally make sure you manage the time you have the materials on thefloor and make sure there’s no queuing problem in the oven, because youreally can’t wait.”
NET CHANGE 5
While Z18 is being finalized, supply partners continue to deliverstructural sections according to an interim Z17 schedule, which islikely to continue to dictate the final assembly schedule for up toAirplane 10, which could begin arriving as early as the end of thismonth.
Airplane 11 is expected to the be first 787 delivered to the Z18schedule, says a senior program source. Airplanes 11, 12 or 13 will befirst to see the cross-program implementation of what is being calledNet Change 5 (NC5). NC5, among other things, includes a long-plannedsystematic change in the wiring definition for the 787. The decisionabout which of the the three aircraft will be the first to receive NC5will be dictated by the constraints built into Z18.
Previously, suppliers like Spirit and Vought (now Boeing Charleston)had been able to deliver structural components with virtually 100%completion of assembly. However, once in Everett for final assembly,some of the internal stuffing had to be removed in order to performdesign upgrades, for example the replacement of aircraft wiring.
NC5 will standardize the many aspects of the design, includingstructural, wiring and systems, across all the partners to reduce theamount of traveled work done in Everett and “bring some semblance ofcommonality between the sections arriving at Final Assembly,” says oneprogram source.