Embraer Expands Melbourne Facility
Embraer Executive Jets is expanding its Melbourne, Fla. campus. Already home to a Phenom 100 and 300 assembly plant and a state-of-the-art customer center, Embraer has begun construction on a 67,000-sq-ft engineering and technology center announced earlier this year.
The engineering center is expected to generate 200 jobs over the next five years, and initially its focus will be on executive jet interiors. The center will be charged with conducting research and development for product and technology and will include a materials testing lab.
The customer center, opened earlier this year, provides a central location for marketing, sales, design and delivery. The facility features offices, aircraft mock-ups, design studios, customer showrooms and suites, dining and meeting rooms and a delivery hangar that includes flight operations and can accommodate four Phenom 100s parked wingtip to wingtip.
Two customer showrooms are adjacent to the design studios. One is set up for Phenom customers while the other will serve Legacy and Lineage clientele. Both evoke the interior look, feel and features of their respective aircraft and use a variety of high-tech imagery and large display screens, combined with a plethora of fabric and substrate samples.
Customers can easily visualize colors and floor plans with the help of computer programs such as Autodesk’s 3ds Max 3-D modeling, animation and rendering software. Embraer also is developing a real-time configurator. Customers are able to look down onto the hangar through expansive suite windows and view their aircraft during the acceptance process.
“For all intents and purposes this is becoming the worldwide headquarters for the executive jet division,” said Robert Knebel, Embraer vice president for executive jet sales. “We really want the customer to come here because they will get to see so much more.”
Knebel said Embraer closes approximately 90 percent of sales prospects who visit the new customer center. “They come here already knowing that the airplane can do the job, but then they come here and see the facility and meet with our people. They get to see the kind of investment we have made and hear our story. It gives them a level of comfort that they are doing business with a company that is very serious about executive jets,” he said.
If the concept needs any reinforcement, it is readily available nearby at Embraer’s 80,000-sq-ft Melbourne assembly plant for the Phenom 100 and 300, opened late last year. The facility is run by Phil Krull, a veteran of the giant German conglomerate Siemens and several defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin. Employee amenities include half-price meals at the company canteen, outdoor gazeboes and barbecues and on-site recreation, including volleyball and basketball courts and a quarter-mile jogging/walking track.
Parallel Production Lines
By the end of August Embraer already had its 20th Phenom 100 on the line and was preparing to begin work on its first Phenom 300 on a parallel line. “We are accelerating assembly of the Phenom 300 in Melbourne,” said Ernest Edwards, president of Embraer Executive Jets. Edwards said the company hoped to have the first Melbourne-produced 300 in customer hands by April.
The fuselage and wings for both aircraft are sent to Melbourne via cargo ships into Miami and Tampa from Embraer’s São José dos Campos, Brazil plant, a journey that takes three to four weeks. The fuselage for the Phenom 100 is shipped in a standard cargo container.
Select interior components such as cabin shells are airlifted from Brazil, while engines, avionics and seats are shipped directly to Melbourne from their respective suppliers in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.“We get really good support from those companies here,” said Krull, adding that the goal is to have no more than three shipsets worth of parts inventoried at any given time.
Constant Contact with Brazil
All the parts and pieces come together in Embraer’s bright, clean, quiet, air-conditioned and wireless communications assembly hangar, which runs on two shifts. There, the fuselage is mated to wings, the empennage attached and all major components as well as wiring and hydraulics installed. Workers use computer tablets for quick instruction reference and to sign off on work performed. The status of each aircraft, metrics and team activities are displayed on giant monitors.
Industrial and quality engineers and their computerized work stations are located adjacent to the assembly lines on the shop floor and they are in constant contact with their counterparts in Brazil. Key supplier representatives also have work areas in a segregated space reserved for parts inspection and conformance prior to acceptance and entry into the assembly area.
The Phenom 100 moves forward through five assembly stations over the course of 12 weeks before proceeding to flight test; the Phenom 300 has six stations. The FAA is currently flying every fifth aircraft, and that is expected to progress to every 10 aircraft early next year.
Embraer has the flexibility to paint aircraft either before or after flight test. The modern downdraft paint booth can accommodate aircraft as large as a Legacy 500.