Volume 04, Issue 5
The Moscow connection
Engineers at the Boeing Design Center in Russia bring critical skills to Commercial Airplanes programs
BY DEBBIE NOMAGUCHI
Located near the heart of Moscow, the Boeing Design Center is a busy node in the Commercial Airplanes engineering network.
Here, engineers are providing detail design on the new 787 Dreamliner, including the nose and forward structure (Section 41), some tooling and ground support equipment, and systems installations. As a supplier to Spirit Aerosystems (formerly Boeing's Commercial Airplanes operation in Wichita, Kan.), the BDC was a competitive factor in Spirit's successful bid for its 787 Dreamliner work package. Russian engineers also are producing nearly one-third of the structures drawings for the 747 Large Cargo Freighter, an airplane needed to support 787 production. Still others work on design changes to improve the quality or ease of manufacturing of the existing product line.
All this is done in a virtual world made possible by the Internet, video telecommunications, and old-fashioned persistence and hard work.
"We actually helped prototype a virtual, collaborative design environment years before it became a way of life on the 787 Program," said Sergey Kravchenko, president of Boeing-Russia/CIS.
Reaching across the globe and time zones to review 3-dimensional CATIA drawings and discuss design solutions was initiated in 1998 on the 777 Program.
Engineering teams are still learning the process, said Mike Denton, Commercial Airplanes vice president of Engineering.
"The degree of success on any one project can depend on how thoughtful we've been in packaging the work statement, how well we've communicated requirements and expectations, and whether we've put the right training in place," he said. "But we're learning both here (in the United States) and in Moscow, and getting better all the time."
"We have to be able to compete globally," added Denton, "so one of our strategies is to seek technical talent from around the world to bring innovation and better value to our products and services."
In the case of Russia, Denton said the BDC can draw on a sizable technical work force, experienced in aerospace and aviation. Another benefit the BDC provides is its good business performance, which improves Boeing's ability to compete and grow. In some cases, Denton said, teaming with the BDC has created a business case for projects that would not have otherwise received a go-ahead. Placing work at the design center also is helping Commercial Airplanes achieve its long-term goal of a more stable work force.
"The presence of the BDC supports BCA's current, growing requirement for engineers," Denton said.
Kravchenko said the BDC has been able to deliver critical skills to support Boeing programs, including stress analysis experts.
"The competition from Airbus is so tough now. By enabling Boeing to design airplanes faster, we create a competitive advantage," he said.
Kravchenko remembers the first project assigned in 1998 to the BDC. It was working with the Interiors Responsibility Center on the redesign of the 777 interior arch beam. He staffed it with 10 top engineers from Ilyushin, the Russian aircraft manufacturer.
"We had less than 10 computers, so we had to prioritize work and schedule two shifts," Kravchenko recalled.
The team created the detail design of a new monolithic beam structure that used far fewer parts and would be produced by high-speed machining. Team members completed the full design package; the drawings were approved and released at the Boeing factory in Everett, Wash.; and then soon after, Boeing Fabrication started manufacturing the parts, Kravchenko said.
Today Kravchenko said the 777 arch beam is a reminder of the BDC's beginnings, a symbolic archway to Working Together on a global scale.
"We have learning on both sides," said Kravchenko. "Right now we have about 15 drafters and engineers here from Everett. We learn from them when they are here, and I'm sure they learn from us. Engineers from Seattle told me after working on the 747 Special Freighter that they wanted to continue working with the Russian teams on the Large Cargo Freighter."
Working with Russia has brought diversity of thought to the table, said Kravchenko. "And it's good for Boeing."
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