Busy times ahead for Boeing

From the time a fuselage enters the factory, it takes 10 days to complete an aeroplane.

By Abdul Basit (chief Reporter)

Published: Sun 28 Jun 2015, 10:55 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:46 PM

Boeing has booked orders for 2,831 737 Max from 58 customers worth more than $300 billion at list prices and these orders will keep its Renton factory busy for more than a decade.

Boeing’s 737 factory site leads the industry as the most efficient aeroplane factory in the world. More than 11,600 commercial aeroplanes (707, 727, 737 and 757) or about 30 per cent of the worldwide fleet flying today were built in Renton.

According the Guinness Book of World Records, the 737 is the “most produced large commercial jet” in aviation history. Covering 1.1 million sqft of factory space, the 737 programme rolls out 42 aeroplanes a month and is expected to increase the rate to 47 a month in 2017 and 52 in 2018.

From the time a fuselage enters the factory, it takes 10 days to complete an aeroplane. The final assembly building has two moving lines producing Next-Generation 737s and a third that will initially produce the 737 Max.

In addition to manufacturing employees building the 737s, the site includes engineers and technical employees who support the in-production airplanes and work on the development of the 737 Max. Engineers also support the certification of the 737s, ensuring that each plane meets US Federal Aviation Administration regulations and is ready to fly when delivered to the customer.

The two high-bay final assembly buildings, built in the 1960s, are some of the newer buildings on the site. They encompass 1.1 million sqft and include offices for engineers, executives and support staff. 737s are assembled on two moving final assembly lines in these buildings. From the time a fuselage enters the building, it takes 10 days to complete an aeroplane.

The 737 wings are built in the site’s oldest building. Originally constructed in 1941 for production of a US Navy seaplane, the building now houses some of the most advanced production areas on the site and in the industry.

In August 2009, Renton began assembling wings on a horizontal — rather than vertical — wing assembly line. Teams of mechanics complete work with the wings in a position like the top of a table. Special tools raise and lower the wings to an ergonomically correct height for mechanics to work on the top or bottom, and hand tools are counter-weighted to help reduce the strain on the workers. To keep up with production rate increases, a second horizontal wing assembly line was built and began producing wings this year.

Beginning in 2015, the wings production area houses an innovative new moving line to assemble 737 wing panels. It includes more automation, using machines to do repetitive work such as installing fasteners. The line builds wings for the 737 Max.

The wings building also houses a third 737 final assembly line, which became operational in March 2008, to produce the P-8. This was the first time a military derivative aircraft is built in-line on a moving line in Renton. By doing so, Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Defence, Space & Security created a new business model to provide Boeing a competitive advantage using commercial platforms and production capability in military markets.

Renton includes paint hangars and space for support personnel. Boeing performs pre-flight tests on all 737s at the Renton Municipal Airport, located west of the main site, before they make their initial test flight. The planes are towed across the Cedar River to the preflight area. Following the initial test flight, the aeroplanes land at Boeing Field in Seattle where final preparations are made for delivery to customers.

Since 2010, Boeing has initiated 145 projects to upgrade the site infrastructure and improve the production systems at Renton. This investment is positioning the Renton site for changes needed to sustain production far into the future, including integrating the 737 MAX into production in 2015.


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