November 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 7 
Commercial Airplanes

New level of 'Working Together'

7E7 program benefits from collaboration methods


New level of ‘Working Together’Faced with the challenge of developing an all-new airplane under an aggressive schedule, the 7E7 program instituted an innovative system of collaboration between engineers based in Everett, Wash., and at partner sites across the globe.

"We realized that there were many capable companies around the world that can add value to the development of the 7E7," said Frank Statkus, vice president of Tools, Technology and Processes for the 7E7 program. The effort to introduce the new system has been led by the Tools, Technology and Processes team.

"We wanted to enable them to work jointly with us to develop and understand technologies and options for the airplane. More than ever before, our partners are helping us find the best technical solutions," Statkus added.

This joint relationship is what Statkus calls the "partnership of the future," redefining development activities to include an international team of engineers working around the world literally 24 hours a day to support the program's schedule. In addition, this partnership includes other organizations such as Operations, Tooling and Quality.

Partnership at this level requires much more than redefining roles and responsibilities. To successfully reap the rewards of this structure, the 7E7 team, in conjunction with Dassault Systemes, developed a suite of software solutions to design, build and test the airplane digitally prior to production. The software suite includes the latest version of CATIA (V5), the computer-aided design tool; DELMIA, the manufacturing software; and ENOVIA, the engineering interface. Together they offer what is known as a Product Lifecycle Management solution.

The team built specially equipped conference rooms, called Global Collaboration Centers, to use in conjunction with the software toolset. This arrangement creates a "virtual workspace" for engineers on the 7E7 program at Boeing and partner locations worldwide to make design changes to the airplane in real time.

Through the global collaboration environment, the combination of the conference rooms and the advanced software permit visualization and analysis of specific components of the airplane during design reviews. As a result, the team is seeing a high level of interaction that allows engineers to review technical design issues—meeting face-to-face but not in person—from a common database being developed as the entire airplane is defined.

As an example, in the past, parts would be designed in an engineering language or format. Manufacturing engineers would translate the data to a language compatible with a manufacturing software. Incompatibilities between the software tools resulted in errors during the translations. These errors needed to be resolved through numerous iterations in the design, analysis, tooling and manufacturing cycle before proceeding to part fabrication. But because the suite of tools developed by Boeing and Dassault don't require translations, this time-consuming process is no longer required.

In addition, the tools enable relational design, where the software analyzes design changes and automatically adjusts adjacent geometry to accommodate the new or modified configuration. All automatic changes are reviewed and approved or modified by the person responsible for the initial design. "This allows you to see the benefits or issues of the change immediately—a huge benefit of real-time interfaces," said Statkus.

To underscore the point, Statkus recounted all of the design effort required using previous tools and processes to move a passenger door by two inches. "It would literally take a team of engineers weeks to figure out all of the components that the move would affect, to redesign those components and to work through any new issues. Now, that process is greatly simplified with the use of these tools through relational design," he said.

The new suite of software will span the total development of the 7E7—from conceptual design to detailed engineering and analysis, from manufacturing and final assembly to in-service support. In this environment, the program can maintain configuration of the 7E7 throughout its life cycle.

"In the past, many good companies designed airplanes," Statkus said. "Today, only great companies find a way to develop airplanes using tools to design and service the airplane throughout its entire life, reducing development time and cost and providing the highest-quality and safest product to their customers. That's what is being accomplished on the 7E7 program."


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