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Lucky Number 38!

The world’s best selling airplane, the Boeing 737, is now building at its highest rate ever.  Vice President of 737 Manufacturing Operations Eric Lindblad says the reason for the success is simple: “It's really efficient in terms of ownership costs and operating costs.”

In fact, the success of the 737 has made rate increases somewhat routine. “Two years ago we were at 31.5, then we went to 35, now we are at 38. In less than a year from now we will be at 42,“ said Lindblad.

Getting the factory capable of making 38 planes a month basically came down to getting the facility’s two production lines in sync. Before the rate increase, Line 1, which had room for 9 airplanes, built 21 planes a month. Line 2, housed in a somewhat smaller section of the factory, only had room for 8 planes and built 14 a month, which meant figuring out a new layout for Line 2. “It is a little like a Jenga puzzle. We had to move the area where the fuselages come in. We actually moved that further one position to the north,” said Lindblad.

“We know how to do this awesome product from every skill level, every organization. We know how to build the best airplane in the world.”

In addition to modifying the facility, 737 mechanics have been given a much more consistent routine in their daily duties. “Every mechanic belongs to a certain area and they do the same work every day… The beauty of that is that when you have an issue on one line or the other you have more people who know the work package so they can help each other out,” said 737 Industrial Engineering Manager, Ruth Mork.

The success of the 737 shows no signs of slowing down, and Mork is confident the 737 program is ready. “We know how to do this awesome product from every skill level, every organization. We know how to build the best airplane in the world.”