Boeing 747 Assembly Plant
If building the worlds biggest airliner was going to be a challenge, then no less so was the challenge of building a plant large enough to accommodate the assembly line.
After investigating sites in 50 different cities around the United States, Boeing settled on a site around 48 Km(30 miles) north of Seattle, Washington in June 1966. The location was adjacent to Paine Field, a military base near Everett. Once the 315.65 hectare(780 acre) site was acquired, it had to have 3.1 million cubic metres (4 million cubic yards) of soil moved before building could commence.
Construction of the plant, which is the largest building by volume ever built, had to be completed urgently as the development of the Boeing 747 was gathering pace. The first mock up of the Boeing 747 was completed before the roof of the plant was even completed.
Boeing Copies Henry Ford
Ever since 1914 when Henry Ford pioneered the moving assembly line for the construction of his Model T, this process has been the mainstay of mass production in the automotive and other industries. The concept has remained basically unchanged in the ensuing years other than technological advancements.
747 Assembly Automation and Efficiency
The gains in efficiency, accuracy and speed to completion are self evident. Boeing implemented such a process for the assembly of the Boeing 747. The designing of the process is quite mind boggling, and it is constantly being re-evaluated. Over the last decades software simulation programs have been instrumental in perfecting processes and enabling the movement from a 24 day construction period per unit toward a target of 18 days. Having the processes in order so that workers are not trying to access the same area to perform different tasks.
For several decades technicians worked from stations located along the walls of the factory and stepped up to the aircraft as it entered their area. Now they stay with the aircraft as it moves with all the necessary tools at hands reach. Engineers are a radio call away.
This methodology does a lot to reduce workshop clutter and inventory, thereby improving speed and cost.
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