Report: Boeing will expand composites manufacturing capabilities in Seattle

The Seattle Times on Sept. 10 reported that Boeing will expand its manufacturing research center in Seattle into a 900-employee operation meant to help it avoid the production glitches that have plagued the first 787 Dreamliners.

The Seattle Times on Sept. 10 reported that Boeing will expand its manufacturing research center in Seattle into a 900-employee operation meant to help it avoid the production glitches that have plagued the first 787 Dreamliners.

According to the report, initially, the new center will focus on building preliminary fuselage, wing and tail sections of the 787-9, the larger derivative of the Dreamliner. Later, it will fine-tune the manufacturing methods on future jets. The move, it is speculated, could lead to insourcing of regular 787 production work.

The report notes that even if the center eventually does manufacture 787 sections, Boeing's partners in Japan and Italy would continue to produce the majority of the 787's wings and horizontal tails. Seattle might build three of the 10 shipsets of wings per month under one proposal, the industry source said. And the company still plans, as announced last year, to ensure it has suppliers outside this region for all 787 parts, so that it can continue production in case of a strike.

Boeing spokeswoman Mary Hanson told the newspaper that the company will by August 2012 fabricate and assemble vertical fins for the Dreamliner at its existing non-union plant in Salt Lake City, Utah. That part is currently the only major 787 section made in this area, in Frederickson, near Tacoma, which will continue to make the fins also.

According to the report, production workers in the Seattle and Auburn facilities — part of the commercial unit's fabrication division — have fixed many of the problems arising on the Dreamliner in the last few months, supplying parts that failed to show up or that needed replacing due to poor workmanship.

The report says that a Boeing internal memo to employees on the plans for the advanced-composites facility says it will focus in the future on "process stabilization and production hardening." An employee at the current facility said supervisors have said this means Boeing intends not only to develop new advanced-composites manufacturing technologies at the new facility but also to fabricate major parts there in significant quantities until the production process is mature and stable.

Boeing officials said the company is also expanding its composite capabilities at its parts-fabrication plant in Auburn, Wash. Workers there told the newspaper that the company is hiring toolmakers and tooling inspectors in preparation for bringing back from outside suppliers the work of making smaller 787 composite parts.

Information: Click here for original Seattle Times report.