October 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 6 
Commercial Airplanes


Auburn refocuses as Commercial Airplanes' center of excellence for emergent, specialty parts


Jim Bergman runs one of the large, five-axis milling machines found in the sprawling Auburn Machining 17-07 building.The buildings are abuzz again in Auburn, Wash., as the largest airplane parts plant in the world is supporting production increases for Boeing commercial jetliners. But making parts for sustaining programs is just a small part of the story for Boeing Auburn, one of 13 Fabrication Division sites.

After nearly four years of site consolidation, Fab operations at Auburn still offer an incredible depth of resources-both intellectual capability and physical assets-that make it Boeing Commercial Airplanes' area of excellence for emergent and specialty production.

Hot modification programs such as the Boeing 747-400 Special Freighter, 747 Large Cargo Freighter and 737-based Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft are thankful Boeing Auburn is ready to meet tight delivery schedules.

"Auburn is vitally important to help bring new products to market more quickly," said Mary Armstrong, vice president and general manager of the Fabrication Division.

It's the need for emergent support that underlines why Boeing keeps parts-production resources in Auburn. Immediate shipside support for final assembly will always be required, as will onsite support for customers around the world 24 hours a day. The site's history is rooted in this reason for being and, over time, Auburn became the industry leader known for quickly delivering unique, quality parts.

Auburn by the numbers

2.1 million Square feet of space (189,000 square meters) reduction achieved in four years of site consolidation. That area represents 34 percent of the original space.

1966 The year Boeing Commercial Airplanes opened its main parts plant in Auburn.

265,000 Part numbers currently manufactured at Auburn.

11,000 Employees in the Fabrication Division, with one-third calling the Auburn site home.









But it's also the exotic work that makes the site vital to Boeing's competitive present and future. True to the mission to create commercial aviation's "game changer," Auburn serves an exciting role helping develop new materials, manufacturing techniques, engineering test parts and tooling for the Boeing 7E7 Dreamliner.

Unique skills, processes, systems and manufacturing capabilities form Auburn's hallmark. Auburn's the place for super-plastic forming, diffusion bonding and technology leadership for hot-forming hard metals. And the site continues to produce a wide range of "lifeline" and critical parts where it offers best value to Boeing.

While the site is returning to its roots, it's not returning to technologies of old, said Auburn site leader Paul Nuyen. To support its vital mission, Boeing needs Auburn-and the entire Fabrication Division -to stay on the cutting edge. As a result, Nuyen said, "we're investing in our site with significant new capital equipment, just as we're investing in our people to ensure we have the resources and skills needed for our future."


The Fabrication Division site in Auburn, Wash., is on a mission-taking on complex work with tight deadlines for new Commercial Airplanes products.

Fab will take the lead in supplying wiring, interiors, tubes, ducts and large machined parts for two high-priority products, the Boeing 747-400 Special Freighter and 747 Large Cargo Freighter, said Jon Geiger, Fab's director of Business Operations and Supply Chain Management. Fab will also make 7E7 wing box components for structural testing, Geiger said.

Geiger calls the 747 Large Cargo Freighter "a most beautiful product" because of its challenging complexity. The top half of the airplane will be cut off and the tail reworked, allowing it to swing open so 7E7 body sections and wings can slide in.

As Boeing engineers worldwide led by the engineering team in Everett, Wash., design the 747 Large Cargo Freighter, highly skilled Fab engineers, technicians, and factory mechanics will work closely with them to complete the design and build the parts. Much of the teamwork will be done virtually-and fast. The airplane will fly in March 2006 and begin its career picking up 7E7 parts around the world in January 2007.

"Fab's people are excited to show they can deliver high-quality parts on time every time," said Paul Nuyen, Auburn site leader.

-Janet Boggs

















The Fab Division team isn't using processes of old either. Instead they're working with colleagues in Supplier Management to use best practices and help their customers in Airplane Programs and Commercial Aviation Services take next steps toward large-scale systems integration-one of the core competencies listed in Boeing's Vision 2016 mission statement, said Jon Geiger, director of Business Operations for the division. Auburn's work involves parts kit integration, simplified ordering, point-of-use delivery, supplier training, value-stream alignment and initiatives to reduce inventory, lead time and transaction costs.

All this is going on while the Auburn site continues its long journey to resize the business, Geiger said. Still in progress is major work movement of simpler parts to external suppliers as well as vital complex work to other division sites. For example, some complex machining is moving to the Boeing site in Portland, Ore., while skin and spar operations by mid-2006 will complete migration to an updated, state-of-the-art center of excellence in Frederickson, Wash.

In addition, Boeing Auburn continues to consolidate to make better use of its physical assets, whittling its size by 34 percent in just four years. And Commercial Airplanes isn't the only game in town. Last month, the Boeing Auburn site welcomed office tenants from Sea Launch, part of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.

So even though it's returning to its roots, no more does the moniker "Auburn" mean "Fab," just as "Fab" no longer means only "Auburn." As the site transforms, it's fun to see that business is booming again in Auburn.



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