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aerospace manufacturing


vice president of manufacturing and safety for Commer- cial Airplanes and companywide leader of operations. He pointed out that other business sectors, most notably the automotive industry, already use much more automated manufacturing than Boeing. “As we see more and more competition in aerospace, I think we feel the need for it more urgently,” Odisho said. “Advanced manufacturing represents the best practices we can adopt in terms of processes and machines in or- der to make our product in a safer, more productive way.” Among other things, that means using technology to assist with more injury-prone tasks. It also means making production tools and systems that can be more fl ex- ible and program- mable, Odisho said.


Flex Track, in use for several years on Boeing’s various commer- cial airplane and military aircraft production lines, represents the early generation


manual work, and made it more effi cient,” Stewart said. “This isn’t about getting rid of any jobs. It’s about how to do this safer and better.” Setting up the new PAL machines requires mechan-


ics to learn more about computer programming, said Larry Fudge, a lead operator in the 737 wing production area. In this early phase, as the PAL machines are being installed, adjusted and tested, he compared the learning curve to “drinking from a fi re hose.” Fudge predicted the transition will be easier in the future for employees, as there will be more training opportunities available. Some of the production im- provements brought about by advanced technology are on a smaller scale than the large PAL machines.


Project manager Brian Stewart, left, and Glynis Pacheco, industrial engineer, review the build plan and sequence of work on a wing panel produced on the panel assembly line in Renton, WA.


of advanced manufacturing tools. In Renton, the 737 wing panel assembly line, known as PAL, gives a glimpse of the next generation. By May of next year, nine PAL machines will be placed inside the 737 wing facility, each able to fasten stringers to wing-skin panels at twice the rate of the previous method, which used a combination of machines and manual labor. The new systems, which already are be- ing used to build the fi rst production wings, are designed to help the 737 and future 737 MAX lines as production rates increase. The machines reduce the number of steps, many involving manual work, said Brian Stewart, project man- ager for the PAL. Part of that process, he said, had not changed much since the 1960s. “We took all those things, eliminated most of the


critical 777 part—the tee duct.


Mechanic Matthew Murray said the tee duct, which delivers hot air to prevent icing on the airplane’s wing, always has been challenging because of its shape, and that it has to be fashioned out of titanium. It took about 90 minutes to machine the duct under the old process, which also presented safety and ergonomics issues. Now, he said, it takes about 10 minutes to create the tee duct with a computer-controlled machining process that has im- proved quality by 35% and is safer and more ergonomic for employees. The improved safety aspect of the new manufactur- ing tools and processes isn’t incidental, said Mary Sul- livan, chief engineer for Boeing Fabrication Production Engineering.


56 — Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing 2015


Precision to a Tee At Boeing’s Fabri- cation site in Auburn, WA, for example, a team with the Tube, Duct and Reservoir Center recently used design software and computer-numerical- controlled milling machines and lathes to improve the pro- duction of a small but


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