Boeing’s 737 factory in Renton, Wash. is now the home of a key piece of machinery used to support higher production rates through advanced manufacturing. The 737 program recently received the first of nine wing panel assembly machines, nicknamed “PAL” for Panel Assembly Line.
The high-speed, state-of-the-art machines will help build the wing panels twice as fast as today’s methods with pinpoint accuracy.
“PAL will help ensure that we successfully execute on our future production rate increases,” said Beverly Wyse, vice president and general manager, 737 program, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “It also makes production processes safer for our employees while improving the quality of our products.”
Moving the 60-ton machine in one piece from its supplier, ElectroImpact in Mukilteo, Wash., 30 miles to the 737 factory proved to be a challenge. By bringing it in one piece we’re able to shave more than a month off the schedule for each machine. And we avoid and mitigate the risks associated with disassembling and rewiring,” said 737 equipment project engineer, Sam Dobbs. The machine arrived safely after tasking a strategic route that included the use of road, rail, and sea.
PAL stands about 20 feet tall. Guided by lasers, the machine joins wing panels together with fasteners. PAL is part of a series of investments by Boeing to update the Renton site in preparation for final assembly of the new 737 MAX.