Boeing – A Digital Transformation Success Story

Boeing – A Digital Transformation Success Story

A Boeing 737 airplane has over 600,000 parts! Believe it or not, that’s one of the smaller airplane models. Even with the incredible amount of parts, Boeing manages to build more than one of these airplanes per day. 

A big part of Boeing’s impressive manufacturing capability is its technology. Digital transformation has been at the forefront of Boeing’s strategy for several years now. It has adopted several new digital technologies across the production line with each one bringing significant value to the company. 

Boeing opened, what it calls, a “Factory of the Future” in South Yorkshire, England. It boasts 6,200 square meters of fabrication space with hopes to one day improve productivity by 50%. The whole facility is equipped with IoT capabilities that improve decision making, reduce costs, and improve the overall revenue of the company. The building is lined with RFID so every tool, component, and valuable asset can be digitally traced around the facility. 

But before a plane even reaches the manufacturing floor, Boeing creates a digital twin of the craft — an exact digital replica. The company uses the digital twin to run simulations that predict the performance of components throughout the aircraft. Engineers use this knowledge to anticipate when a product might fail. Since deploying this technology, Boeing has seen a 40% improvement in first-time quality of parts. 

On some aircraft models, 3D printing is becoming a big part of the manufacturing process. For its 777X model, carbon fibre fan blades and metal fuel nozzles were printed for better performance. Using 3D printing allowed Boeing to reduce the number of fan blades from 22 to 16. For the fuel nozzles, 3D printing allowed for a component with significantly less fuel emissions, lowering the overall build cost. Both of these components were just not feasible with regular manufacturing methods. 

Boeing has even improved its assembly quality with augmented reality. Any small mistake in assembly can be detrimental. With hundreds of thousands of components, something is bound to go wrong eventually. By introducing augmented reality, Boeing has reduced errors on its wiring harness assembly to practically zero. Workers are given safety glasses with augmented reality built in. Using voice commands, they can pull up instructions right before their eyes so they can see exactly what needs to be done without taking a hand off their current task. Not only has this new technology eliminated errors, it has cut production time by an impressive 25%.

Boeing is one of the best manufacturing case studies for digital transformation. Boeing utilizes many of the key technologies behind digital transformation and shows just how impactful they can be in a complex production line.