Bloomberg News

Boeing Says 787 Fix Takes 10 to 14 Days With No Redesign Needed

February 27, 2012

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co. said replacing improperly installed shims on its new 787 Dreamliners will take 10 to 14 days per airplane and doesn’t indicate that the model needs a redesign.

The shims, patches about the size and thickness of two sheets of legal paper used to fill gaps, will be replaced in tandem with other modifications on already completed jets, Pat Shanahan, Boeing’s vice president and general manager of airplane programs, said today in remarks broadcast online from a Barclays Plc conference in Miami.

“It’s just work,” he said. “We have to remove a fastener at a time, and it just takes time.”

Boeing said earlier this month it had traced the problem to the company’s new factory in South Carolina where the aft sections of the composite-plastic jet are assembled. All 55 787s built so far will need to be fixed, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Jim Albaugh said yesterday in Singapore.

Shanahan gave a goal of not having to perform any extra work on planes outside the factory by the time the 70th jet is built. That work, called “change incorporation,” has the biggest impact on cash, he said.

The company has thousands of projects under way on the 787 and other programs to boost productivity and profitability with suppliers, he said. “It has a ‘B’ in it” for billion, Shanahan said of the potential savings.

More Complete

The 787s rolling out of Boeing’s plant now are more complete than they had been, Shanahan told investors. Each plane now needs completion of about 500 to 1,000 jobs after leaving the factory, down from 5,000 to 7,000 before, he said. There’s been significant improvement to the program in the past six months, he said.

The 787 supply chain is already building parts for 3.5 of the composite-plastic jets a month, he said. Boeing, based in Chicago, is assembling 2.5 a month and is ramping up toward a goal of 10 a month by the end of next year.

The company plans to start up the so-called surge line it’s preparing in its main factory in Everett, Washington, in June, he said. It’s a second, temporary line that’s intended to provide “rate protection” while the new factory in South Carolina begins producing 787s.

Shanahan said it may also be used to separate the 787-8s, which are the first model built, from the 787-9s that have yet to begin production.

‘Basic Learning Curve’

Boeing is working to train employees amid a hiring push, as one in four workers at its manufacturing hub around Seattle has less than 18 months of experience, Shanahan said.

The shimming problems in South Carolina, where the company is creating a production base with workers new to aerospace, were “part of what I’d call a basic learning curve,” he said.

As the company nears the middle of a production increase of more than 60 percent across all of its jets between 2010 and 2014, that push has caused “hardly a blip” to the smooth flow of assembly, Shanahan said.

“On the development side, we’re back into our stride,” he said. “The pendulum has finally shifted from risk to opportunity.”

--With assistance from Kyunghee Park in Singapore. Editor: James Langford, John Lear

To contact the reporter on this story: Susanna Ray in Seattle at sray7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net


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