Buried in the second-to-last paragraph in an announcement of vice presidential promotions for its chief engineers was a word about Terry Beezhold, who serves as the 787 airplane level integration team (ALIT) leader. Beezhold, effective today, becomes Boeing's vice president for process, tools and affordability. One particular line in his new job description stands out:
In his new role, Beezhold will work with Engineering, Information Technology, Manufacturing, Airplane Programs and CAS to make sure all Boeing Commercial Airplanes computing processes and tools support the entry into service for the 747 Freighter and Intercontinental and 787 airplanes, support the sustaining airplane programs and enable the planned rate increases for the 737, 767, and 777 programs. Additionally, Beezhold will work on affordability associated with the non-recurring process for future airplane product development. Doing so, he will work closely with Larry Schneider, vice president of Product Development; Mike Bair, vice president of Advanced 737 Product Development, and Lars Anderson, vice president of Advanced 777 Product Development.The position is significant as it lays the groundwork establishing the business case for the coming spate of potential development programs, including the stretched 787-10X, 777 upgrade and clean sheet 737 replacement.
Match that description against this 1997 Flight International article about future product development and a new role for one of Boeing's Master Engineers, Walt Gillette:
One of the initiatives is aimed at creating "faster, cheaper", processes which would enable Boeing and its suppliers to develop an all-new aircraft at half the cost of current projects. Although Boeing declines to offer any details, Flight International understands that the project's broad target is a 50% reduction in the 70-month timescale and $7 billion cost of the 777 programme.Gillette's work on the ACPS in the late 1990s spawned the 787 program as we know it today, laying the foundation for the aircraft's business case, which included - broadly - the composite structure, systems architecture and global supply chain.
Boeing's name for the project is the Airplane Creation Process Strategy, and it is led by its director, Walt Gillette, who was appointed to the position in January. "We met suppliers a while ago to begin discussing the issue, although we're not ready to talk about it much externally at the moment," says Boeing. The Airplane Creation Process Strategy group reports to Harry Arnold, executive vice-president of Boeing Commercial Airplane Group's define- and aircraft-development section.
The overarching context for this move comes out of Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh's comments from Investor Day on the plans for developing a supply chain and production system for a 737 replacement:
What we're really scratching our head on right now, though, is the other thing that you always have to look at when you do an airplane, and that is the production system. How can we take an airplane that's probably composite, and how do we ramp it up from zero airplanes a month, up to 40, 50 or 60, and how do you do that in a short period of time? And we've got a team that's off working that and working that very hard.
Right now, the effort has been, for the most part, internal. But what we have to do different? And if this is a composite airplane, how do you do it without autoclaves? How do you reduce the amount of tooling? How can you figure out how you don't have to drill a lot of holes that you have to fill? I mean, there are lot of things that have to be considered and we have set up a team under Ray Conner and we're bringing in people that have worked high-rate production in other industries to help us figure out what this manufacturing system would look like. I think if you don't design the production system in parallel with the airplane, we'll find - we'll have difficulty.No clear indication of the company's direction, but certainly another step forward.
Photo Credit Boeing