Boeing employees last week rolled out the first 787 Dreamliner built at the new production rate of five airplanes per month, the company announced today. The 83rd Dreamliner ever built, the airplane marks the passage of yet another milestone in Boeing’s quest to raise its production rate to 10 per month by late 2013.
Earlier this year the company raised the rate from 2.5 to 3.5 airplanes per month. The program production rate accounts for airplanes built at Boeing South Carolina and Everett, Washington, including the so-called temporary surge line the company activated earlier this year in Everett.
“This accomplishment, doubling our production rate in one year, is the result of the combined efforts of thousands of men and women across Boeing and at our partners,” said Larry Loftis, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. “The entire 787 team is focused on meeting our commitments. They’ve gotten even smarter in how they build this airplane and applied real ingenuity in making our processes and tools more efficient.”
For example, the company has established some 500 “employee involvement teams” to pursue efficiency, quality and safety improvements. One team has developed a small piece of protective equipment to cover the electronic actuators that help move the horizontal stabilizer. The company now uses the plastic covering across the program to protect the actuators during the production process. The small change has also resulted in quicker production completion times, said Boeing.
Meanwhile, the company continues to invest in new equipment—such as orbital drilling machines—to improve productivity in the final assembly areas. Technicians use the machines to drill holes to attach the wings to the center fuselage section of the airplane. The drilling technique is unique in that the cutter rotates in a circular motion to carve out the hole, whereas a conventional drill cuts straight into the material. According to Boeing, the new machines improve precision and save time for mechanics. They also improve safety because they require lower thrust and create less torque than do conventional drills.