Spirit AeroSystems ready to resume production after tornadoBy Molly McMillin
The Wichita Eagle
About 1,000 people have cleared debris, worked on roofs, tested equipment and put temporary walls and fixes in place so Spirit AeroSystems’ 10,800 employees can return to work on Monday.
“We’ve seen quite a transformation in the last week,” Spirit CEO Jeff Turner said during a tour of the plant Friday. “Our goal is full production Monday morning.”
Some production at Spirit resumed Friday. And on Friday afternoon, Spirit planned to deliver its first fuselage shipment, six days after the company took a direct hit from an EF-3 tornado.
A Boeing 737-800 fuselage and 777 forward section were loaded and ready to go. A 737-900 fuselage was being prepared for loading for a trip by rail to Boeing’s plant in Renton, Wash. The shipment will be only three days later than planned, Turner said.
Cleanup has moved faster than first projected, he said. At first, the company had estimates of two or three weeks to get roofs covered up.
Turner praised Eby Construction, which brought in about 1,000 people – its own employees and subcontractors from around the country – this week.
“I don’t how many tons of debris (have been hauled out), but it’s a lot,” Turner said.
Equipment has been tested and utilities restored.
“Our whole chilled water system was gone,” Turner said. Chilled water is used to cool large machines.
Inside Plant 2, silent since Saturday night, riveting once again pierced the air Friday where workers assembled 737 fuselage sections.
Other stations were silent, waiting on people to return next week.
While everyone will return Monday, Turner said not everything will be back to normal.
“It will be a little bit chaotic,” he said.
A key to returning to full production is to make sure parts, sealant, kits, fasteners and other supplies are available to feed the assembly lines, Turner said. Suppliers, which have continued to build parts for Spirit but were asked not to deliver them, have been told to resume deliveries.
It will take some time to make up for lost production.
“In some places, we lost seven days,” Turner said. “It’s going to take a tremendous effort by the team to recover that.”
Production rates, especially on Boeing’s popular 737 jetliner, are aggressive. Spirit has been building 35 737 fuselages a month and seven 777 forward sections, Turner said.
Stopping production for a week means it’s behind by nearly eight 737s and almost two 777 forward sections.
“There’s a lot of units there,” Turner said.
The company hasn’t worked through the full recovery plan with its customers yet, he said.
Spirit wants to understand the priority levels of its customers, said Jim Hans, Spirit’s director for 737 final assembly. It is working through the sequence of what Boeing wants it to ship.
The company will use overtime and help from some of its partners to get back to a normal delivery schedule, Hans said.
Some of the fixes made to the plant are temporary until permanent repairs can be made.
For example, the end of Industrial Plant Building 2, which collapsed in the tornado, has been razed, and tools and equipment have been moved to another area.
The manufacturing process facility at MacArthur Road has had temporary covering put up to keep the weather out until a permanent fix can be made.
And crews were working Friday to quickly cover up holes in the roof in Plant 2 at the end of the 737 line and over the 747 production.
Debris was all over Plant 2 after the storm, and insulation was hanging from the ceiling. That’s been swept and cleaned up.
Otherwise, it was difficult to tell where the facility had sustained damage. The large machines and tools remained in place. So did the fuselage sections.
Raw materials, such as aluminum, were not damaged, although one of the walls in the warehouse was leaning inward.
Spirit’s Tulsa facility also felt an impact from Saturday’s storms. The site’s computer system was down for several days, so access to information – such as what needed to be built – was unavailable.
The company has sent three or four dozen people to Tulsa to help, officials said.Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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