Boeing's V-22 Osprey Future Factory: Repurposing a Historic Structure for Modern Military Aviation Manufacturing

Boeing's V-22 Osprey Future Factory: Repurposing a Historic Structure for Modern Military Aviation Manufacturing

Repurposing an existing facility to accommodate a new mission can offer numerous cost and schedule advantages, but these projects also present inherent challenges. Having the right approach and the right team can help aviation owners realize the advantages of a renovation project, even when incorporating the latest aircraft manufacturing equipment and techniques. This dynamic was on full display at the Boeing Company’s V-22 Osprey Future Factory – Historic Production Building Renovation project.

Located along the banks of the Delaware River in Ridley Park, PA, the V-22 Osprey Future Factory is housed in a nearly century-old, 350,000 SF former steel foundry. Boeing saw an opportunity in the facility to combine and expand their fuselage production for the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft under the U.S. military’s Common Configuration-Readiness and Modernization program.

The V-22 has proven its versatility in its more than 20 years of service, primarily with the U.S. Marine Corps, which is expected to continue to add and update its fleet of over 300 Ospreys. In addition, the aircraft has been requisitioned for use by the U.S. Air Force Special Operations, U.S. Navy carrier groups, and by the Japanese Defense Force. The former steel factory not only provided the necessary space needed to meet the growing demand for the V-22, but also included necessary utilities and infrastructure.

Under an ambitious $115 million multi-phase project, Boeing challenged the project team to move V-22 production lines to the new “Future Factory” in Ridley within a year of starting construction. The Future Factory concept called for fulfilling the dual purpose of the efficient production of V-22 fuselages for new aircraft while creating new space to rehabilitate returning Ospreys.

As a result, the factory transformation brought all production support resources for both operations closer to production/renovation lines to enable a leaner assembly environment to enhance workforce collaboration.

The renovations to the historic industrial building presented numerous challenges. Combined with Boeing’s strict production standards and budgetary constraints,there was a strong emphasis on coordination and teamwork. Hill’s role was to support the entire project team with real-time schedule monitoring and support inclusive of participating in planning meeting focused on meeting critical project milestones.

For example, the Hill team helped to developmultiple engineering packages using a seven-phase construction timeline spread over a 14-month duration to complete renovations while adhering toproduction deadlines for the two separate V-22 operations. The team also usedmilestone schedules, two week look-ahead plans, off-shift work, and multiple weekly subcontractor progress meetings to fulfill fast-track commitment dates. This collaborative construction approach,which included dozens of projects on simultaneous schedules,enabled the team to identify long lead-time facility support and production equipment. Items such as a new boiler, chillers, cooling towers, air rotation units,air handling units, 15KVA substation andswitch gear, GFS finish paint /wash-strip booths, aircraft work scaffolds/tooling etc., that were fast tracked for both Osprey programs’ integrated move-in schedules.

As construction of each phase concluded, transitioning became a top priority. To minimize any disruption to Boeing work schedules and staff, the array of personnel, parts, tooling, and equipment required for each assembly position, management, or support function was seamlessly shifted over to the newly renovated area during after-hours or weekend shifts once the new spaces were cleared for occupancy and all indoor air quality testing was completed. This added layer of project complexity was addressed with exceptional pre-design planning and teamwork.

From an Owner’s Representation perspective, the team’s schedulingwork included several steps to both drive and monitor progress. This included a Hill-prepared report that documented progress against the schedule with images of the work, conducting meetings with Boeing and the contractor, reviewing the contractor’s schedule for long lead items, and other steps to prevent delays as well as site walks to confirm staffing levels and work completed. These measures were critical to achieving Boeing’s aggressive schedule.

Ultimately, the project realized significant savings versus the costs ofconstructing a new building while meeting Boeing’s mission. As a testament to the success of the project team, Boeing now brings their most important customers, tour groups, and military personnel from around the world through the building to showcase its operations. This outcome was a direct result of theproject team focused on delivering a facility that would meet Boeing’s needs today and well into the future.

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