Boeing looks to car industry expert for jet production savings

Tue Apr 28, 2015 9:12am EDT
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By Tim Hepher and Alwyn Scott

(Reuters) - Boeing (BA.N: Quote) plans to use newer and more standardised manufacturing techniques for its new 777X jetliner, paving the way for "significant" savings as it gradually feeds the changes back into existing assembly lines, a senior executive said.

The approach will draw increasingly on lessons learned from outside the aerospace industry and comes as the focus of the intense rivalry between Boeing and Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) shifts toward production strategies after a record boom in orders.

"I think the 777X will be our first opportunity to show the ideas that we have to date," said Walter Odisho, Boeing's vice president of manufacturing and safety, referring to the world's largest twin-engined jet that is due to enter service in 2020.

"However, we also have the capability to affect the other programs that we have in place ... In many cases we’re looking to standardize our approach," he told Reuters.

Odisho, 52, was speaking in his first interview since joining Boeing in December 2013 from Toyota (7203.T: Quote), where he oversaw manufacturing at the carmaker's $6 billion plant in Kentucky.

While standardised production is common in the auto industry it is rarer in aerospace, where volumes are lower and airlines demand more customization but where output is rising fast.

Odisho said planemakers need to make production "more repeatable and predictable".

He declined to estimate cost savings from the shift toward "Advanced Manufacturing," an innovative set of production tools that can include robotics, but called them significant.   Continued...

The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young