787 suppliers in South Korea, Japan pushing towards full-rate output

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The 787 is now an aircraft well into its early production run at Boeing's first and second tier supplier sites throughout Japan and South Korea after the airframer struggled for years to get its global supply chain fully operational.

Korean Air Lines Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD), Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in Busan and Sacheon, and Fuji, Kawasaki and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya are now delivering between two and three shipsets a month to sites around the world, including final assembly in Everett, Washington.

Each supplier is well into a process of making provisions to grow the present production rate of nearly three aircraft a month to 10 a month by the end of 2013, an exercise that requires significant capital investment to ensure partners are able to meet record production for a widebody commercial jetliner.

At KAL-ASD in Busan, work has begun on the centre wingbox stringers for Airplane 62, with 29 sets of raked winglets handed over to Boeing for final assembly in Everett, Washington.

KAL-ASD phased in a new facility at Gimhae International airport in summer as part of a step-by-step ramp-up to 10 787s a month by 2013. The aerostructures manufacturer plans to transition from a pulse line to two parallel moving lines for final structural assembly of the aircraft's Section 48 aft tail cone.

"We have a good plan" to get to 10 a month, says KAL senior vice-president Sehan Kim, who adds that the 787 at full rate will account for around 30% of the company's workload, the largest of any single programme KAL is involved in.

KAI, which is responsible for fabricating the build-to-print Section 11 front and rear spars and three spanwise beams, has delivered 52 shipsets to Fuji by sea for integration in the centre wingbox. Additionally, the company is responsible for the 787's fixed trailing edge, which is shipped as a kit to ShinMaywa, which is responsible for the front and rear wing spars, then on to Mitsubishi for structural build-up.

Fuji Heavy Industries, which integrates the Section 11 centre wingbox and Section 45 landing gear wheel well, is equipped to build seven shipsets a month on two parallel lines.

Once complete, Section 11s are prepped for joining to Section 45 wheel wells - made up of the pressure deck, keel beam and aft wheel well bulk head, fabricated by Kawasaki, Iwaii and KAL, respectively - before moving to leak checks, painting and sealing, followed lastly by systems installation.

By autumn 2011 Fuji will bring online its third centre wingbox/centre wheel well integration line, raising its production capacity to 10 aircraft a month.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which fabricates the Section 43 forward fuselage barrel and wheel well pressure deck, is expected to bring its Nagoya Works 2 facility online in spring 2011, adding a smaller autoclave to cure beams and floor grids on site, freeing the larger 8.9m (29.2ft)-wide autoclave to cook fuselage barrels at a rate of 10 a month.

That development will double the five shipsets a month capacity already online at the 71,000m2 (765,000ft2) Nagoya Works 1 next door.

Major machinery inside the now completed 73,000m2 Nagoya Works 2 facility is undergoing qualification, while the assembly line tooling is being installed.

For wing supplier Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, aspects of 787 wing production have been "pressure tested" to a higher rate. George Maffeo, newly appointed vice-president 787 supplier management, says the Mitsubishi's production capability has not yet been tested to 10 aircraft a month, but Boeing has focused its attention on the ability to ramp up wing skin fabrication and structural build-up, with evidence of structurally completed wings and wing skins awaiting transition in an overflow area in the factory.

To date, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has delivered 29 sets of wings to final assembly in Everett from its Oye facility in Nagoya.