Front Page
Boeing Frontiers
March 2004
Volume 02, Issue 10
Boeing Frontiers
Special Features

They Deliver for You

Airplane Delivery Centers strive for perfection


They Deliver for YouEvery week of every month, employees at Commercial Airplanes Delivery Centers in Seattle and Everett, Wash., take the final steps for delivering a brand new airplane to one of Boeing's many airline customers.

To help Boeing improve its competitiveness, both delivery centers are continuously finding ways to improve the process and reduce the time it takes to get an airplane into the hands of customers. The biggest challenge is unpredictability, said Dave Ayres, a Flight Line Operations manager at Boeing Field in Seattle. "There are a variety of issues that could be identified during flight test, some minor and quick to fix. But others can be more extensive, requiring more time to resolve, thus drawing out the delivery time," he said.

To give its readers a better understanding of the Delivery Centers' processes, Boeing Frontiers recently followed a WestJet 737-700 as it moved from the final assembly line in Renton, Wash., to the delivery center in Seattle.

On Day One, the plane rolls off the assembly line and goes to Renton Field where it begins phase one, called preflight. During this seven-day phase, the 737—still sporting the protective green coating from manufacturing and assembly—will undergo fueling tests, engine runs, airworthiness inspections, avionics testing, preflight servicing and its first test flight, called the Boeing 1 flight.

They Deliver for YouDuring this first flight, Boeing test pilots record the performance of the airplane in the form of "flight squawks" that document how well the equipment performs and operates. These "flight squawks" become the blueprint for the remaining delivery process. In this case, the WestJet 737 had a successful Boeing 1 flight with few noted anomalies and was given a "Sold" stamp to move on to the next phase.

On Day Eight, the plane begins phase two—the paint process. The plane is flown to Boeing Field, near downtown Seattle, and placed into one of four paint hangars. There, the protective green finish is removed and the plane's exterior is sanded, cleaned, taped, primed and then painted to WestJet's unique design requirement.

On Day 11, the 737, now wearing freshly painted WestJet livery, is taken to the flight line to begin phase three, called final delivery. The plane moves into one of 15 work stalls where teams begin a process of resolving any remaining "flight squawks," and conduct pre-delivery flight checks, perform a second Boeing test flight if required and obtain the Federal Aviation Administration certificate of airworthiness for the aircraft. The teams also support the customer walk-through and a customer test flight. For this WestJet 737, the customer test flight was a success. Noting no additional anomalies, the Boeing and WestJet flight crews rate the airplane good to go.

They Deliver for YouCustomers are heavily involved in the delivery process, Ayres said: "They want a high-quality airplane delivered when they need it and in service-ready condition."

After customer acceptance, the final quality assurance inspection is done along with any adjustments or touch-ups required on the plane's interior and exterior before handing it over to WestJet. After 17 days of preparing for delivery, the WestJet 737 flies away to its new life, where it will carry passengers to a variety of destinations.

The timeline for delivering a 737 typically is between 17 to 19 days, said Lindsay Anderson, director of the Delivery Center at Seattle's Boeing Field. But that period, Anderson noted, is shorter than the 25 days needed in December 1997 when the first Next-Generation 737 airplanes rolled out for delivery. "Each year, we find ways to make this delivery process more efficient," he said.

The Seattle Delivery Center's Lean vision for the future is to have 100 percent quality on the first customer walk-through, perform one test flight per airplane and be able to move each airplane through preflight to "fly-away" delivery in nine days.

They Deliver for YouWork teams already are in place to make that happen. Using Lean techniques like those employed in Boeing factories and final assembly areas, these teams have successfully implemented standard work packages and point-of-use workstations at every stall on the field. Each crew shelter is equipped with prekitted tools and computerized work stations for tracking completed and pending jobs. Additionally, mobile work stations are available for quick and efficient access to unique tools or accessories needed for nonstandard jobs.

In October 2003, a proof-of-concept project was launched at Renton Field to see if the standard seven-day process for preflight could be reduced to five by eliminating redundant activities and identifying more efficient ways to complete tasks. Teams pinpointed common issues that crop up during the preflight process and devised ways to mitigate or eliminate them.

So far, results have been positive. The team has now processed 32 planes through preflight in five days instead of the usual seven. "This is teamwork in action." Anderson said. "This can only occur when people are committed to improving the process, as we've seen demonstrated here. We still need to analyze the data before we can implement this across all deliveries, but the results so far are encouraging."

"Our main focus is customer satisfaction," Ayres said. "Improving the process can only improve the product. This type of success is what we're banking on to help us achieve our vision and goal."

Similar efforts also are being applied in the Everett, Wash., center where the twin-aisle 747, 767 and 777 airplanes are delivered. A proof-of-concept project currently is under way on the 767 delivery process. Results will be used to validate the delivery process for the new 7E7 airplane. The goal of the project is to reduce the 7E7 delivery process three additional days, to a six-day flow time.

They Deliver for You They Deliver for You
They Deliver for YouThey Deliver for You


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