Mitsubishi Automates Boeing 777 Fuselage Production
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI) assembles 777 fuselage panels in Hiroshima, Japan, and ships them to Boeing’s wide-body aircraft factory in Everett, WA. To improve productivity and boost quality, the airframer recently installed an automated fastening system supplied by Broetje-Automation GmbH.
Two state-of-the-art production lines include nine major fastening systems that improve flexibility and throughput. The goal of the multi year project was to create an automated assembly system that can quickly adapt to production fluctuations and cost reductions. A flow line concept enables MHI to assemble multiple types of panels in different sizes and shapes on the same line, while significantly improving throughput and quality.
Traditionally, the aerospace industry has been slow to automate. “[That’s because manufacturers demand extremely accurate levels] of precision and quality,” says Wermter. “Commercial aircraft are large, complex products. “The total number of planes produced annually is also significantly low compared to other manufacturing sectors, such as automotive or consumer goods,” explains Wermter. “Only a small part of the entire production process is automated. “Due to complex processes [and tight tolerances], it’s often necessary to combine automatic and manual work in one workstation,” says Wermter. “Automation of entire lines is [rare] in the aerospace sector. However, new digital technologies, human-machine collaboration and Industry 4.0 [tools] are changing that scenario.”