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Boeing Launches SC Paint Operations

Friday, December 23, 2016

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With the completion of a new 360,000-square-foot paint facility, Boeing South Carolina announced that its North Charleston, SC, production campus will no longer have to fly the 787-10 Dreamliners assembled on site to other facilities for their paint jobs.

A crew of about 100 painters will work in three shifts to coat jets in the new paint hangar, the Charleston Regional Business Journal reported Monday (Dec. 19).

News of the new painting operations comes about two weeks after nearly 200 subcontracted painters were notified of pending layoffs at a Boeing Company paint facility in Portland, OR.

Full-Service Production

Completion of the paint hangar means the North Charleston site is now a "freezer-to-flight" campus for the 787 production line, according to area newspaper The Post and Courier.

This means that the entire assembly process—from raw materials frozen until used for fuselage construction to customer delivery—will occur on site. Jets will move directly from the final assembly building to the paint hangar and then out to the flight line.

“We are a one-stop shop now, from beginning to end,” Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and general manager, explained at a Dec. 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We can really manage quality and customer satisfaction from the onset all the way through the process.”

These on-site painting capabilities are also expected to translate into a time savings of several days for the production schedule and greatly reduces expenses, officials noted.

Moreover, the time savings provided by also opens the door for crews to test out creative designs, or even to fix a mistake, Robinson-Berry added.

‘Best’ Paint Environment

The new paint hangar is said to be nine stories tall and as wide as two football fields, with two paint bays, each large enough to accommodate a 787-10 Dreamliner—the largest of the 787s, with a wingspan of almost 200 feet. Bright LED lights will illuminate the surfaces to be painted.

The combination of energy-efficient lighting and temperature control will create the best environment to paint the aircraft without imperfections, Michelle Bernson, senior director of pre-flight, paint and delivery, told the Journal.

According to reports, the process of painting a Dreamliner can take between one and two weeks and upwards of 80 gallons of paint or more, depending on the complexity of the livery design.

Although the company would not reveal which customer would be the first to have a jet painted in the new facility, the first Dreamliner to be painted in its entirety on site will come through in January, Bernson said. She added that workers are preparing for this first job by practicing on barrel sections of planes.

Room to Grow

Constructed by Skanska, the building utilized “enough steel to build 2,000 automobiles; concrete equal to a sidewalk 130 miles long; reinforcement bar that would stretch for 13,000 miles if laid end to end; and enough chilling capacity to cool more than 1,800 homes,” the Post and Courier reported.

Boeing SC
The Boeing Company

The addition of a 360,000-square-foot paint hangar at Boeing's North Charleston, SC, site means means jets will get nose-to-tail service at the facility—moving directly from the final assembly building to the paint hangar and then out to the flight line for customer delivery.

The paint bays also incorporated the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems needed to accommodate the airflow requirements of the paint process.

Matt Frey, Skanska’s vice president of South Carolina operations, added that the construction crew dealt with challenges posed by Hurricane Matthew, as well as an “intense schedule” to complete the building in a two-year time period. Still, he added, "This project is awesome."

According to Robinson-Berry, the paint facility has the capacity to handle Boeing jets in addition to the Dreamliners if needed in the future.

"We have more capacity now than we can probably use ... It's a big building," she said. "We have two bays and our vision is to grow. That's why you don't just make it for the size you need today but to grow."

   

Tagged categories: Aerospace; Business matters; Business operations; Labor; Layoffs; North America; Paint application; Painters; Program/Project Management; Transportation

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