MAXIMIZING PRODUCTION BOEING FRONTIERS / NOVEMBER 2013 17 How the new 737 MAX will be assembled in a factory already humming with production By Lauren Penning and photos by Bob Ferguson Doug Rigsby, a mechanic on the 737 program, will be one of the first to build the new 737 MAX when it enters production in 2015. He’s looking forward to the day when the MAX flies through the factory as efficiently as it will soar through the sky. But first comes the learning curve— and a lot of problem-solving for the 737 factory in Renton, Wash. “There is going to be an evolution,” Rigsby said. “The key is to do everything right the first time.” Rigsby is part of a team of industrial engineers, manufacturing engineers, mechanics and specialists from across Boeing who are working out the logistical details of how to move the MAX into production. They face an unusual conundrum: how to introduce a new airplane into a humming factory that is already producing at record rates. When the 737 MAX begins final assembly, the Renton factory will be building 42 airplanes a month. The prospect is a bit like introducing a slow car into the fast lane of traffic, according to Chip Roberts, Industrial Engineering team leader for the 737 MAX. “With the first MAXs you’ll have mechanics measuring twice and drilling once because it’s a brand-new airplane,” Roberts said. Introducing a new model into that system could slow things down considerably. To avoid a pileup, the planning team decided not to introduce the MAX into the Next-Generation 737 production stream right away. Instead, they opted to build a temporary final assembly line just for the MAX, allowing any issues on the new airplane to be worked out without slowing the factory’s production. This will ensure that “with the first final assembly of MAX, we won’t get in the way of the fast lane,” Roberts said. Marty Chamberlin, Manufacturing and Operations leader for the 737 MAX, said the concept of a temporary final assembly line just for the MAX “turned on a light” for how it would be systematically introduced into the Renton factory. The plan calls for the most-experienced mechanics, such as Rigsby, to shift onto the temporary MAX line, learn the procedures, and then train the rest of the factory, even as Next-Generation 737s “Having the efficiencies gained from the moving line already built-in will really help.” – Doug Rigsby, 737 mechanic PHOTOS: (Far left) Industrial engineer Chip Roberts looks on as 737 mechanic Sophea Pel installs wiring on the Next-Generation 737. (Left) Glynis Pacheco, from left, 737 industrial engineer, and Site Services project administrators Neil Haines and Dan Selthofer review plans at the construction site in the 737 wings building, which is now the new location for 737 Wings Systems Installation.
Frontiers November 2013 Issue
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