Boeing rolls out 'Toyota-style' lean production methodology for aeroplanes
Boeing 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 told Reuters.
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 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.
Boeing takes a leaf out of Toyota’s book
Odisho joined Boeing in December 2013 from Toyota, 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 plane makers 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. “The idea of achieving significant savings in a single action is a fallacy. We'll take the opportunities and when you add them all up together, I think they will amount to quite significant improvements,” Odisho said.
Boeing has long relied on Toyota-inspired lean production methods to improve efficiency, but Odisho has been hired to help push car industry thinking deeper into its manufacturing plants. That matches an approach taken at Airbus, where car industry executives in senior positions are more evident.
“If you look at aerospace with market demand rising, we need to start thinking differently and move efficiencies from the auto industry into this arena,” Odisho said.
Last month Boeing started automating the assembly of 737 wing panels and is introducing robots on the 777. “I think we are beginning the journey,” Odisho said. “There are areas ... such as drilling where we have a lot of repetitive motion.”
It is not just about automation, however. Odisho observes the factory like a choreographer, with an eye on the overall shape of the performance. “Think of it as a robot. Because robots are automated they can go through many types of motion that are wasteful. But in order to utilize robots correctly we need to be thoughtful about the movements that their arms make,” he said. “If we can apply the same thinking (to the factory) ... then we can affect the process to a high degree.”
For example, Odisho is urging a fresh look at the flow of parts. “If we can develop a system where we have direct deliveries to our lines and in an orientation which our operators will use to simply secure instead of handling parts, we have tremendous opportunities,” he said.
Improving the sequencing of parts reduces inventory and eases cash flow, a recent focus for investors. And it means less space is needed to store them, lowering overheads. Boeing's plane making chief Ray Conner has challenged engineers to think about ‘build quality’ when designing aircraft so they can be produced more affordably.
Odisho says a clean-sheet design for a 21st-century aircraft plant would weave a single thread from the drawing board to the parts cart on the factory floor. “I would look at material flow, I would look at processes, I would look at the design of the airplane with people in mind - how the work would be performed. I would design the airplane with specific areas of automation in mind,” Odisho said.
Could the buffer of several days for holding parts in aircraft plants ever hit auto-industry levels of as low as two hours? “Ultimately I think we will see that day,” Odisho concluded.
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.