Boeing Frontiers
March 2003
Volume 01, Issue 10
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Integrated Defense Systems

Raptor line keeps moving, improving


Boeing F/A-22 Assembly CenterA new moving wing line in the Boeing F/A-22 Assembly Center in Seattle is the latest in a series of improvements that are increasing efficiency and helping ensure the program meets its business goals.

The factory makeover, where the Raptor's wings and aft fuselages are built, also includes a new aft fuselage "tool-less" join station and wing subassembly feeder line.

Bob Barnes, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems vice president and F/A-22 program manager, said the changes are a great example of the Boeing team's effort to improve processes and make its assembly operations as lean as possible.

"Improving processes is a continuing quest for us and key to the program's success as we move into production," Barnes said. "I'm very proud of what our team has accomplished—the F/A-22 Assembly Center is one of the few places within Boeing where large structural subassemblies are being done on a moving line. Our ultimate goal is to have full aft fuselage and wing 'laydown' moving lines up and running by 2005."

Initial buildup of F/A-22 wings is completed in standard upright tooling prior to transitioning to the moving line. Once there, up to four wings on their sides move approximately four inches an hour across the floor while employees complete systems installation, leading and trailing edge, and side-of-body structures work.

Tom Kelleher, F/A-22 Assembly Center manager, said it currently takes 20 days to complete a wing once it reaches the "laydown" or moving line position. The program plans to get that number down to 10 days by the end of 2004.

Other benefits are already apparent.

"The moving line makes priorities obvious," Kelleher said. "Since the wing is in fact moving, much quicker resolutions are required over other assembly systems. We focus first on potential issues that might stop the line."

The moving line also requires that everyone rethink how parts, tools and drawings reach the assembly mechanic. The efficient yet simple solution is that the wings now come to the tools rather than the reverse, which is how it worked in the past.

"Hand tools and parts now are located in smaller kits on either side of the moving line so workers can simply turn and easily retrieve what they need to complete the job," Kelleher said. "This 'point-of-use' effort greatly reduces trips to the tool crib, saving travel time away from the job, and improves affordability."

That's important, because shortly the factory will be moving from producing one wing ship set a month to two.

Kelleher said the F/A-22 factory improvements are the result of a team effort. F/A-22 employee "high performance work teams" generated a number of improvement ideas as well as the resources required to implement them.

"Working hand in hand with our employee teams, representatives from wing manufacturing, IDS Puget Sound Lean, Facilities and Tooling organizations looked at ways to make the factory more efficient," Kelleher said. "One of the things we did was to study Boeing Commercial Airplanes moving line activities. In the end, we put together a plan that leveraged what we learned from them and incorporated our own unique requirements."

The company's Air Force customer and teammate Lockheed Martin are well aware of what's taking place in the Seattle Assembly Center.

"We've made good progress, but we're not going to rest on our laurels," Barnes said. "Our entire Seattle team is working hard to help the F/A-22 program become even leaner and more affordable."

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