Mechanic and Machine: Boeing’s Advanced Manufacturing Improves 777 Assembly

February 23, 2017 in Commercial

Mechanic Mike Jennings has two new words in his job title – robot operator.

He helps oversee one of the robots used in the new Fuselage Automated Upright Build, or FAUB, process that helps manufacture 777s -- more than 40 to date -- in Everett, Wash.

Stationed at a computer that shows robot diagnostics and images from a small camera built into the multi-function tool at the end of the robot arm, Jennings monitors its movements and makes notes. He and fellow team members maintain the system and make tweaks if needed.

“I’m learning a new aspect of manufacturing, and that’s really cool,” Jennings said. “I like being part of this cutting-edge technology that’s helping improve how we build airplanes.”

FAUB is a partnership of automation and manual work that assembles the forward and aft sections of the 777 fuselage. After teams load and set the panels, robot pairs move in unison along the barrel “drilling and filling” thousands of fasteners that connect the sections. It’s a job Jennings used to do by hand – repetitive work that he said was “really tough and stressful” on his back, neck, shoulders and arms.

FAUB eliminates that stress on the mechanics. It also improves quality and will speed up the build process in a very flexible way, according to Samantha Jarema, of FAUB Production & Integration.

“Most everything in here is on wheels,” said Jarema, referring to the machinery in the new FAUB factory built at the east end of the Everett site. “We can build any portion of the forward or aft section in any of our six main production positions.”

Mechanics are able to move the robots and massive parts around on automated guided vehicles or AGVs. That mobility and flexibility will allow FAUB to manufacture all 777 models including the upcoming 777X, said Ben Nimmergut, 777 production engineering chief engineer.