October 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 6 
Commercial Airplanes

'Like changing the tires at 60 miles an hour'

Auburn-to-Portland work transfer helps transform Oregon site into machining center of excellence


Dave Hyem and machinist Doug Nelson look at performance reports on one of Portland’s new high-speed five-axis milling machinesIt's not the famed Seattle-to-Portland, Ore., bike race, but it feels almost as arduous. "This project is like changing the tires at 60 miles an hour," said Dave Hyem, work transfer manager at Boeing Portland.

Hyem is referring to the challenge of overhauling the Fabrication Division's Oregon site into the complex machining area of excellence for Boeing Commercial Airplanes -accomplished mostly by moving machine, tooling and process knowledge from Boeing's facility in Auburn, Wash.

The Auburn-to-Portland plan involves:

. Focusing manufacturing of complex machined airplane parts in a single center of excellence. That allows the Fabrication Division to reduce excess capacity and total product costs.

. Moving 144 machines and more than 250 supporting specialized tools between April 2003 and January 2005. That will increase Boeing Portland's statement of work by 20 percent and end-item deliveries by 45 percent.

Ground rules state that all 11 "packages" of parts-production work have to move without disrupting airplane deliveries. That makes the task pretty difficult as Commercial Airplanes begins increasing production rates amid the gradually recovering market for new airplanes.

Halfway through the project, the move has gone smoothly, in the opinion of the people making it happen at both ends.

"So far, we hit every first-part delivery," said Hyem. "It's been amazing how the Auburn team stepped up in a really professional, helpful, proactive way."

Portland by the numbers

11 Number of parts packages transitioning from Auburn, Wash., to Portland, Ore., including splice, mini-cantilever and jack screw assemblies, flaperons, backup, drag brace support and terminal fittings, trunnions, "pickle forks," stub beams and "dog houses."

400 End-items manufactured at Boeing Portland, including some of the most critical "lifeline" machined parts and structures for Boeing 7-series jetliners, such as engine mounts, gearboxes, landing gear beams, flap tracks, carriages, flap support mechanisms and flight control systems.

1,000 Number of people who work at the site in manufacturing production and support.

1923 Year that the Iron Fireman Company was founded. The company became Boeing Portland in 1974.

1.1 million Square feet (99,000 square meters) of covered manufacturing space at Portland.














Dave Mann is one of the assemblers from Auburn who taught lessons-learned to Portland employees assuming the new work packages. Mann was curious and wanted to witness the work transfer firsthand. He plans to apply what he learned to Internet-based project management coursework he's taking through Villanova University as part of his hoped-for career shift into engineering. Auburn assembler Kristi Chambers was curious, too. "This is your baby, and you want to see what it's like when the work goes somewhere else," she said.

There is no denying that morale at Boeing Auburn was pretty low in 2003 after employees learned that a significant amount of machining capability was leaving. "It isn't easy. People don't like to change jobs or move as work moves elsewhere," said Auburn site leader Paul Nuyen. Auburn Machining factory general supervisor Rick Laramore added, "Our team didn't like it, but we're over it. We understand this is about helping Boeing stay alive to compete and win another day."

The strategic transformation is affecting all 13 Fabrication Division sites, producing improvements and challenges along the way.

"Because we do it a lot, Fab now does work transfer better than ever. Our lines of communication are wide open and our teaming processes are phenomenal. We deal with issues up front," said Chris Goin, Auburn work-transfer project leader.

For Portland, the Auburn-to-Portland work transfer comes with the expectation to deliver major cost improvements to program customers. Thus far, the company has achieved actual savings of 15 to 40 percent on packages moved, with the site expecting similar results on remaining fuselage, wing and main landing gear components, said Portland site leader Dave Moe.

Although it seems like half the Portland factory is reorganizing to accommodate 155 pieces of equipment, the site is also busy evaluating work that doesn't fit its strategy. Some work may move to external suppliers locally and beyond or to other Fab sites.

"This is the future of a Boeing parts plant," Moe said. "If you want to survive, you have to learn to compete like an external supplier-and to make hard decisions to focus on the right stuff."

-Deborah Banta Dustman


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