Volume 04, Issue 6
Hawker de Havilland, a Boeing subsidiary and 787 supplier, embraces new tools and processes to link teammates worldwide
BY MARIBETH BRUNO
The collection of World War II–era buildings that make up the Hawker de Havilland facility in Melbourne, Australia, belie the fact that there's cutting-edge research and manufacturing going on inside. HdH, a Boeing subsidiary since 2000, continuously is building on a 75-year history that includes the heritage of aviation companies such as Commonwealth Aircraft Corp. and Government Aircraft Factories and contract wins from the Mosquito bomber to the F/A-18 and the Boeing 737, 747, 757 and 777.
Further adding to its reputation, Hawker de Havilland has been selected to provide the composite wing moveable trailing edge components for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The package consists of the aileron and flaperon and its associated hinged panels, the inboard and outboard flaps, the seven spoilers and all the fairings.
"This is a great example of working together to develop the best technical solution," said HdH Managing Director Mike Rufert. "The combination of the wealth of composite technology knowledge within Boeing combined with process development undertaken in Australia has delivered us a unique, high-performance, low-cost outcome."
A "merchant supplier" that must compete for contracts from Boeing, HdH is a recognized leader in the design, manufacture, testing and repair of airframe structural components. The company's selection for the 787 moveable trailing edges is the result of innovation in new liquid-molding fabrication techniques.
Hawker de Havilland was chosen in November 2003 to be the Tier 1, or first tier, supplier for "everything that moves" on the trailing edge of the 787 wing, based on technology it developed for the Boeing Sonic Cruiser program, said Steve Sloan, HdH 787 Engineering manager in Melbourne. Most of the liquid-molding research and development proposed for the Sonic Cruiser and now being used on the 787 was conducted over several years in conjunction with the Australian government–supported Cooperative Research Centre, which joins industry and academia for research-and-development activities that aid Australian industry.
HdH reports to Boeing Fabrication in Seattle, where it has a small team of engineers working on the 787 Program. Most partners have large teams at the Boeing site in Everett, Wash., said Martin Stephenson, Boeing 787 Wing Leading Edge/Trailing Edge Life Cycle Product Team manager. But, he said, "HdH decided from the start to have a small team in Seattle, and perform most of the design work from its home site."
"The application of Boeing-defined tools and processes allows concurrent design among all 787 global partners," Sloan said.
HdH, like other partners, is using Dassault Systemes' ENOVIA, a database-management application that lets users store, manage and share product definition data, processes and resources generated throughout the life cycle of a product. It combines with Dassault's 3-D solid-modeling and simulation software suite CATIA V5 and production-simulation suite DELMIA to merge design and data management into one interface.
"Because HdH was the first 787 partner to work remotely from Seattle with a large team using these tools at its home base in Australia, it was essential for us to have a successful and timely rollout of the new tools to support design in remote locations," said HdH 787 Program General Manager John O'Hehir.
Implementation "has been a challenge, but it's the right sort of a challenge," Sloan said, noting there are more than 100 designers and analysts in Australia using the system each day. "For HdH, it links our employees in Melbourne, Sydney and Seattle with our Tier 2 partners in Asia, Europe and the United States; with Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle, and other Boeing partners and regulators around the world."
The software will help reduce project costs by eliminating the need for paper manufacturing drawings, but requires processes that deliver the electronic data models to the planners and shop floor in a usable way.
HdH finds recruiting qualified engineers a challenge because of stringent U.S. export-control laws that limit who can participate on the program, as well as Australia's small population (20 million, a bit higher than New York state's). "But in recruiting a group of graduate engineers, over 200 people applied for the 13 jobs," Rufert said, "and we extended just 14 offers to get them, showing how much interest there is here in Boeing and the 787 program."
HdH's facility in the Fisherman's Bend area of Port Melbourne (a former Government Aircraft Factories facility) won't require new construction to take on the 787 work. But programs currently using about half the floor space in one 220,000-square-foot (20,400-square-meter) building will be relocated to make room for a U-shaped production flow based on Lean principles.
"There won't be a moving line at startup," said Bob Raverty, 787 Operations manager, "but we're definitely using Lean thinking and making provisions to implement moving lines with higher production rates. We're figuring out how to tool up without creating large 'monuments' [fixed tools] and to keep the assembly fixturing simple, flexible and moveable."
Stephenson and several other Commercial Airplanes employees had traveled from Seattle to the Fisherman's Bend facility for a successful technology readiness review, but most collaboration on the project is done from a distance. A separation of 17 time zones, combined with cultural differences on workday start—Seattle goes to work earlier, even though Melbourne is equally well-known for its coffee shops—results in only four days of real-time working together per week, plus lots of 3 a.m. telecons for the HdH team.
With three large test "skins" more than 30 feet (9.1 meters) long fabricated using the innovative vacuum-assisted liquid molding process, HdH is designing tools, running producibility trials, testing materials and hardware, implementing planning and production processes, and finalizing its supply chain. Momentum is building, and project leaders believe employees at this Australian site have the same level of excitement and confidence about the new airplane as their U.S. counterparts.
"There's definitely enthusiasm about getting involved in a new program," Stephenson said.
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