Boeing ramps up 787 production to five per month

Build rate expected to reach 10 per month in late 2013.

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The Boeing Co. (Everett, Wash.) reported on Nov. 12 that it had rolled out the first 787 Dreamliner built at the new rate of five airplanes per month. The airplane is the 83rd 787 to come off the line. Boeing earlier this year increased the rate from 2.5 to 3.5 airplanes per month and is on track to achieve a planned 10 per month by late 2013. The program production rate accounts for airplanes built at Boeing South Carolina (North Charleston, S.C.) and Everett, including the Temporary Surge Line that was activated in Everett earlier this year.

Boeing reports that about 500 employee involvement teams across the 787 program are actively seeking ways and means to meet quality, safety and production-rate goals. Among the new tools Boeing has deployed to improve productivity in the Final Assembly areas are Orbital Drilling machines by Novator (Stockholm, Sweden). The machines are used to drill holes for the fasteners that are used 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, rather than a conventional drill that cuts straight into the material (for more about the technique, see The benefits of the machines include improved precision and time savings for mechanics. A third benefit is improved safety because the machines require lower thrust and torque.

“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,” says Larry Loftis, VP 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.”

At HPC press time, 35 787s had been delivered to eight airlines, and the program had more than 800 unfilled orders with 58 customers worldwide.