ProductionProduction The first 271 737s were built in Seattle at Boeing Plant 2, just over the road from Boeing Field, (BFI). However, with the sales of all Boeing models falling and large scale staff layoffs in 1969, it was decided to consolidate production of the 707, 727 and 737 at Renton just 5 miles away. In December 1970 the first 737 built at Renton flew and all 737s have been assembled there ever since.
However not all of the 737 is built at Renton. For example, since 1983 the fuselage including nose and tailcone has been built at Wichita and brought to Renton by train. Also much of the sub-assembly work is outsourced beyond Boeing.
Production methods have evolved enormously since the first 737 was made in 1966. The main difference is that instead of the aircraft being assembled in one spot they are now on a moving assembly line similar to that used in car production. This has the effect of accelerating production, which not only reduces the order backlog and waiting times for customers but also reduces production costs. The line moves continuously at a rate of 2 inches per minute; stopping only for worker breaks, critical production issues or between shifts. Timelines painted on the floor help workers gauge the progress of manufacturing.
When the fuselage arrives at Renton, it is fitted with wiring looms,
pneumatic and air-conditioning ducting and insulation before being
lifted onto the moving assembly line. Next, the tailfin is lifted into
place by an overhead crane and attached. Floor panels and galleys are
then installed and functional testing begins. In a test called the “high
blow”, the aircraft is pressurised to create a cabin differential
pressure equivalent to an altitude of 93,000 feet. This ensures that
there are no air leaks and that the structure is sound. In another test,
the aircraft is jacked up so that the landing gear retraction &
extension systems can be tested. As the aircraft moves closer to the end
of the line, the cabin interior is completed – seats, lavatories,
luggage bins, ceiling panels, carpets etc. The final stage is to mount
the engines. There are approximately 367,000 parts on a 737 NG.
The present build time is now just 11 days (5,500 airplane unit hours of work) with a future target of 6 days (4,000 airplane unit hours of work). In Dec 2005 a second production line was opened to increase the production rate to 31 aircraft a month. By 2007 there was a three year waiting list for new 737s, and an order backlog of over 1,600 aircraft. A third production line is under construction dedicated to the MMA order.
After construction they make one flight, over to BFI where they are painted and fitted out to customer specifications. It takes about 200ltrs (50USgallons) of paint to paint a 737. This will weigh over 130kg (300lbs) per aircraft, depending on the livery. Any special modifications or conversions (eg for the C40A, AEW&C or MMA) are done at Wichita after final assembly of the green aircraft. Auxiliary fuel tanks and specialist interiors for VIP aircraft are fitted by PATS at Georgetown, Delaware.
The fuselage is a semi-monocoque structure. It made from various
aluminium alloys except for the following parts. |
Different types of alluminium alloys are used for different areas of the aircraft depending upon the characteristics required. The alloys are mainly aluminium, zinc, magnesium & copper but also contain traces of silicon, iron, manganese, chromium, titanium, zirconium and probably several other elements that remain trade secrets. The different alloys are mixed with different ingredients to give different properties as shown below:
Fuselage skin, slats, flaps - areas primarily loaded in tension - Aluminium alloy 2024 (Aluminium & copper) - Good fatigue performance, fracture toughness and slow propagation rate.
Frames, stringers, keel & floor beams, wing ribs - Aluminium alloy 7075 (Aluminium & zinc) - High mechanical properties and improved stress corrosion cracking resistance.
737-200 only: Bulkheads, window frames, landing gear beam - Aluminium alloy 7079 (Aluminium & zinc) Tempered to minimise residual heat treatment stresses.
Wing upper skin, spars & beams - Aluminium alloy 7178 (Aluminium, zinc, magnesium & copper) - High compressive strength to weight ratio.
Landing gear beam - Aluminium alloy 7175 (Aluminium, zinc, magnesium & copper) - A very tough, very high tensile strength alloy.
Wing lower skin - Aluminium alloy 7055 (Aluminium, zinc, magnesium & copper) - Superior stress corrosion.
See also fuselage page for further details about fuselage structure.
OutsourcingMany components are not built by Boeing but are outsourced to other manufacturers both in the US and increasingly around the world. This may be either for cost savings in production, specialist development or as an incentive for that country to buy other Boeing products. Here is a list of some of the outsourced components:
737 NG Key Production Dates:17 Nov 1993: Boeing directors authorize the Next-Generation 737-600/-700/-800 program. Southwest Airlines launches the -700 program, with an order for 63 aircraft.
5 Sep 1994: The 737-800 is launched at the Farnborough Air Show.
15 Mar 1995: The 737-600 is launched with an order for 35 from SAS.
28 Apr 1995: The new engine for the Next-Generation 737 family, the CFM56-7, powers up for its first ground test at the Snecma test facility in Villaroche, France.
1 Dec 1995: Major assembly begins on the No. 1 737-700 model when a 55-foot-long spar, or horizontal wing structure, is loaded into an automated assembly tool in the Renton, Wash., factory. Assembly also begins in Wichita, Kan., on the first 737-700 fuselage Section 43 panel (an upper fuselage section).
16 Jan 1996: The CFM56-7, makes its first flight attached to the left-hand wing of a General Electric 747 flying test bed in Mojave, Calif.
20 Mar 1996: The 737-700 program reaches its 90 percent product definition release, marking a major engineering milestone for the new 737 family. The milestone signifies the transition from the development phase to production phase of the program.
22 Apr 1996: The first 737-700 machined wing ribs arrive from Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japan. Boeing 737 wing ribs were previously built-up assemblies. The single-pieced machined ribs increase quality and decrease weight.
30 Apr 1996: The first Common Display System for the 737-600/-700/-800 flight deck arrives at the Boeing Integrated Aircraft Systems Laboratory in Seattle. The programmable software display unit allows airlines to easily maintain the flight deck and to tailor it to their specifications.
17 Jun 1996: Assembly begins in Wichita, Kan., on the No. 1 nose, or cab, section for the first Boeing 737-700.
2 Jul 1996: Boeing launch the Boeing Business Jet, derived from the 737-700 model.
15 Jul 1996: Employees at the Boeing Renton, Wash., factory unload the No. 1, left-hand 737-700 wing out of its tooling and move the approximately 50-foot-long structure to its next manufacturing position.
26 Jul 1996: The last major body structure for the first 737-700 fuselage is loaded into the integration tool in Wichita, Kan.
12 Aug 1996: Assembly begins in Wichita, Kan., on the nose section of the first 737-800.
24 Aug 1996: The first 737-700 one-piece fuselage leaves Wichita, Kan., bound for Renton, Wash.
3 Sep 1996: The first completed 737-700 fuselage arrives in Renton, Wash., after travelling nearly 2,200 miles from the Boeing Wichita plant. The first pair of CFM56-7 engines arrive at Propulsion Systems Division in Seattle for engine build-up.
18 Sep 1996: Wings are attached to the first 737-700 fuselage in the Renton, Wash., 737 factory.
6 Oct 1996: The first 737-700 fuselage rolls on its own landing gear to the final assembly area, where flight control surfaces, engine and systems are installed.
7 Oct 1996: The 23-foot, 5-inch vertical tail is installed on the first 737-700. The vertical tail weighs approximately 1,500 pounds.
10 Oct 1996: The horizontal stabilizers are attached to the first 737-700, completing the installation of all major airplane structures.
20 Oct 1996: The second 737-700 fuselage arrives in Renton from the Boeing Wichita plant.
26 Oct 1996: The first CFM56-7 engine is attached to the right wing of the first 737-700. The left-hand engine is installed the next day.
29 Nov 1996: The No. 3. 737-700 arrives in Renton from the Boeing Wichita plant.
2 Dec 1996: The first 737-700 rolls out of the Renton factory and advances into the paint hangar.
8 Dec 1996: The first 737-700 is introduced to the world at The Boeing Company's Renton, Wash., plant. Nearly 50,000 guests attend the Next-Generation 737 celebration.
9 Feb 1997: The first Boeing 737-700 makes its maiden flight, with Boeing Capts. Mike Hewett and Ken Higgins at the airplane's controls. At 10:05 a.m. PST, the airplane -- painted in the Boeing red, white and blue livery -- takes off from Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash., as hundreds of Boeing employees and their families watch and cheer. After heading north over Lake Washington, the pilots fly the newest member of the 737 family north over Tattoosh, east to Spokane and then back to Western Washington before landing at Boeing Field in Seattle.
14 Mar 1997: The fuselage of the first 737-800, destined for German-carrier Hapag-Lloyd, arrives in Renton from Boeing Wichita, after traveling 2,190 miles by railcar. At 129 feet 6 inches in length, the 737-800 is 19 feet 2 inches longer than the 737-700.
11 Apr 1997: The first 737-800 rolls to final assembly for airplane systems, horizontal stabilizer and vertical tail installation.
30 Jun 1997: The first 737-800 debuts at a ceremonial rollout on the north end of the 737 final assembly factory. A crowd of several thousand Boeing Commercial Airplane employees are on hand to witness the premiere of the 129-feet-6-inch airplane -- the longest 737 ever built. The first 737-800 is the 2,906th 737 built and the 6,508th commercial airplane built by Boeing in Renton.
31 Jul 1997: The 737-800 makes its first flight, with Boeing Capts. Mike Hewett and Jim McRoberts at the airplane's controls. At 9 a.m. PDT, the 129-foot, 6-inch 737-800 takes off from Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash., as Boeing employees cheer. After heading north over Lake Washington, the pilots fly north to the Straits of Juan de Fuca and conduct a series of flight tests between there and Tatoosh. Three hours and five minutes later, the airplane lands at Boeing Field in Seattle.
17 Dec 1997: Boeing delivers the first Next-Generation 737-700 to launch customer Southwest Airlines. The event is marked by a brief ceremony at Boeing Field. The airplane later departs for Love Field in Dallas, Texas.
23 Jul 2000: The first Next-Generation 737-900 stars in a ceremonial rollout at the Renton factory. Employees of launch customer Alaska Airlines and Boeing employees who worked on the 737-900 program attend the event.
12 Jan 2001: First production 737 "blended" winglets arrive in Seattle, Wash.
14 Feb 2001: The first shipset of "blended" winglets is installed during production of a Next-Generation 737 at the Renton, Wash. factory.
14 May 2004: The 1,500th Next-Generation 737 is delivered to ATA Airlines. The Next-Generation 737 family reached this milestone delivery in less time than any other commercial airplane family, six years after the delivery of the first model. The Next-Generation 737 bested the previous record holder, the Classic 737 series, by four years.
17 Jan 2005: Final assembly time for Next-Generation 737 is cut to 11 days, making it the shortest final assembly time of any large commercial jet. The feat marks a 50 percent reduction in assembly time since the implementation of Lean tactics began in late 1999.
13 Feb 2006: Delivery of the 5,000th 737.
8 Aug 2006: Rollout of first 737-900ER.
Production Article from Boeing:Boeing Commercial Airplanes performs major assembly of all 737s at its factories in the United States; however, parts for the airplanes come from suppliers all over the world.
Assembling a 737 is a complex job. Factory employees must take 367,000 parts; an equal number of bolts, rivets and other fasteners; and 36 miles (58 kilometers) of electrical wire; and put them all together to form an airplane.
The fuselage, or body of the airplane, is produced at a Boeing plant in Wichita, Kan., in the American Midwest. At that facility, employees attach the nose section of the airplane's fuselage to the center and tail sections. When the fuselage is complete, it is strapped aboard a railroad car for a 2,175-mile (3,500-kilometer) train ride across the United States.
When the train arrives at the Renton factory, the fuselage is transferred to a large cart and wheeled to the final assembly building, where it spends about 13 days.
During the first stage of final assembly, factory workers focus on the interior. In the same way carpenters might finish the inside of a house, they install insulation material along the inside walls of the fuselage, then add wiring and plumbing.
When the fuselage is ready to move to the next stage of production, an overhead crane located 89 feet (27 meters) above the floor lifts it high into the air and gently places it down into its next position. Here, precision tools are used to install the landing gear and the two wings, making the structure look like a real airplane. At this point, the 737 can roll along the factory floor and take its position in the moving production line.
Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line to automobile manufacturing a century ago. Boeing became the first commercial airframe manufacturer to use the concept to build jetliners when first the 717, and then the 737, production lines were transformed into a moving line. The moving line helps reduce the time to assemble the airplane and also cuts inventory and production costs.
The 737s on the line move continuously at a rate of 2 inches (5 centimeters) per minute; the line stops only for employee breaks, critical production issues or between shifts. Timelines painted on the floor help workers gauge the progress of manufacturing.
Near the beginning of the moving line, an overhead crane lifts the 23-foot-high (7-meter) tailfin into place so it can be attached. Next, floor panels and serving galleys are installed and functional testing begins.
In a test called the "high blow," mechanics pressurize the plane to trick it into thinking it is flying 92,847 feet (28,300 meters) in the air (more than twice as high as it will fly in service). Then, inspectors make sure there are no air leaks. In another test, large yellow jacks lift the 154,983-pound (70,300-kilogram) airplane into the air so employees can try out the landing gear retraction system.
As the airplane moves closer to the end of the line, the rest of the interior is completed - lavatories, luggage bins, ceiling panels, carpets, seats and other essentials are installed. Right before the 737 exits the final assembly factory, mechanics attach the jet engines.
Once assembled, the airplane is towed to a hangar for painting. About 50 gallons (189 liters) of paint are used on an average 737; the paint weighs approximately 300 pounds (136 kilograms).
When painting is complete, the airplane is ready for a Boeing test flight - one last step to make sure the 737 is ready to fly passengers. After Boeing test pilots fly the airplane, the customer's airline pilots take it for a test run.
When the customer test flight is complete, the 737 is ready for delivery to its new owner. And one more plane is added to the roster of 737s flying the skies worldwide.
31 Jan 2013 - Boeing ramps up 737 production to 38 airplanes per monthRENTON, Wash., 31 Jan. 2013. Boeing (NYSE:BA) workers are now assembling Next-Generation 737 at a rate of 38 airplanes per month in its Renton, Wash., facility. Boeing has grown production of the 737 by more than 20 percent, from 31.5 to 38 airplanes a month, over the past two years. Boeing’s executive leadership anticipates another increase in 2014, to a rate of 42 airplanes a month. "We have more hard work ahead of us, but we are well on our way to another successful production rate increase," says Beverly Wyse, vice president and general manager of the 737 program. Employee teams have been instrumental in reducing 737 production flow by developing and implementing innovative efficiency improvements, says a spokesperson. The first Next-Generation 737 built at the new rate is scheduled to be delivered in the second quarter of this year.
14 Jul 2011 - Boeing considering production rate of 60 aircraft a monthBoeing is once again contemplating increasing the production of its Renton 737 airliner production lines, its commercial airplanes chief executive says. Jon Ostrower, writing on FlightGlobal.com, says Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh has asked Boeing production executives to gather information about what changes would be necessary at the plant and among suppliers to raise production to 60 737s a month. That's nearly twice the present 31.5 planes a month the plant makes now. Boeing has already scheduled several stepped rate increases to take that production to 42 monthly by 2014. Boeing's two existing production lines in Renton are capable of producing 21 planes a month each when suppliers are able to furnish parts and subassemblies at that rate. The plant has a third 737 production line that is now dedicated to building militarized versions of the 737 for the U.S. and foreign navies. Those planes are equipped with sensors and weaponry to hunt submarines. That third assembly line could theoretically be equipped to also produce commercial airliners. Albaugh told the National Aeronautic Association in a speech this week that if the company can figure out how to build that many planes a month, Boeing could sell them. Albaugh is fresh from a meeting with American Airlines which may order up to 250 single-aisle jets from either Boeing or Airbus. American has been a Boeing-only customer in recent years. At present production rates, the company, however, is sold out through 2016 for the 737. Boeing wants to offer big customers such as American earlier delivery slots to win their business. Read more: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/business/2011/07/14/another-boeing-737-assembly-rate-increase-in-the-works/#ixzz1S9ZWfAxJ
The new rate, 42 per month, is the fourth boost in the past two years and will be absorbed by the second final assembly line at Boeing’s Renton facility, south of Seattle. The company’s 737 backlog is more than 2,100 aircraft.
Line One is already carrying its share of that rate at 21 per month, so the second line will absorb the increase from its current 10.5.
For several years, Boeing has been concerned that frustration over long lead times would drive its customers to other products unless it boosts production rates. That concern is not aimed just at Airbus—Bombardier in Canada, Comac in China and Irkut in Russia are developing 737 competitors.
Meanwhile, legacy airlines have learned to manage their way through economies that continue to remain weak so well that order rates for 737s remain strong.
The improvement package includes cabin upgrades of larger baggage bins and better lighting. The combination has helped sustain demand, says 737 General Manager and Boeing VP Beverly Wyse. Sixty-four customers have ordered the upgrades, she says.
Renton went to a 31.5-per-month rate in 2009, or not quite 1.5 airplanes per day, given an average 22 work days per month. The rate is expected to reach 35 per month early next year, 38 per month in the second quarter of 2013 and the 42 rate in the first half of 2014. The 31.5 rate is a record pace, so each increase sets a new standard for Boeing’s commercial production.
Overall, Boeing is boosting total airplane production 40% by 2013, the other big jump coming on its 777 widebody line.
Airbus previously announced a shift to 42 per month. Boeing officials say the Airbus figure was about the equivalent of 38 per month because the Europeans are factoring in that factories are closed in August.
Boeing does not build the 737 fuselage—Spirit AeroSystems does in a factory previously owned by Boeing in Wichita. The 42 rate has been under discussion for months. The big concern was not whether Boeing’s own workers and factories could keep up the pace, but whether the supply chain could do so. “We have worked very closely with our supply chain ... to ensure we can increase rate in an efficient and responsible fashion,” says Wyse. “We believe that many of the capital investments and production system changes made for 38 airplanes per month will already position us to build 42.”
The Renton facility dates to World War II but has been so thoroughly modernized over the past decade that it can support 737 production rates as high as 63 aircraft per month, Wyse says.
31 Aug 2010 - Upping 737 output further may be too costlyChief Financial Officer James Bell said Tuesday that raising production rates for the 737 jetliner to 40 a month from a planned 35 could be too costly to implement. Speaking at an analyst conference in New York, Bell said the manufacturer can lift monthly 737 output to 35 without a "significant amount of capital expense," but such spending would have to increase if the rate were to go higher. Furthermore, there is concern that current market demand may not be sustainable, Bell said. In other areas, profit margins among Boeing's civil aircraft lines are "as close to what we can do," Bell said. However, if 737 rates are lifted, it could provide a margin benefit for other models. Meanwhile, Boeing said last week it would have to delay the first delivery of the 787 to early next year, but Bell said costs associated with the new delay can be absorbed by the company.
18 May 2010 - Boeing to increase 737 production rate to 34 a/c per monthBoeing today announced that it will increase production rates on the Next-Generation 737 program to 34 airplanes per month in early 2012. The planned rate increase is aimed at satisfying continued strong demand for the Next-Generation 737. In addition, the company continues to study further potential 737 rate increases, given continued customer demand. “With over 5,200 sold to date, the Next-Generation 737 is the workhorse in our customers’ fleets around the world,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh. “Even through the global economic downturn, our diverse 737 backlog has remained very strong. Increasing the 737 production rate is the right thing to do to meet the growth and fleet replacement needs of our customers.” The current production rate on the 737 program is 31.5 airplanes per month. Suppliers for the 737 program are prepared to support the rate increase. The production rate decision is not expected to have a material impact on 2010 financial results. “The global economy continues to recover this year and we believe that airlines will return to profitability in 2011,” said Randy Tinseth, vice president of Marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We believe that there will be an increased demand for airplanes – especially in the market served by the Next-Generation 737 – in 2012 and beyond.” With more than 2,000 unfilled orders from more than 80 customers around the world, the Next-Generation 737 is the newest and most technologically advanced airplane in its class. Airfinance Journal’s investors’ and operators’ poll consistently ranks the Next-Generation 737 as the most preferred airplane in its class due to its wide market base, superior efficiency and lowest operating costs.
12 Dec 2009 - 737 Production Rate to Remain SameGood news coming this week from a top Boeing Executive on 737 production rates. Boeing is seeing no reason to change how many of the 737 jetliners they build a month. All year, there's been growing speculation and concern Boeing would reduce how many 737's they build because a drop would likely lead to layoffs at Spriit Aerosystems. "There is no change and let me repeat. There is no change in our assessment that we can hold the 737 at its current build rate of about 31 airplanes per month," Boeing CFO James Bell said. No change on 737 rates could be some of the best news Spirit Aerosystems employees have heard in a while. Spirit is Boeing's largest supplier. The single aisle 737 fuselage then by rail sends it to Renton, Washington for assembly. Bell spoke at a Bank of America Merril Lynch conference this week and answered skeptics who've been predicting a 737 rate cut. "Now while I know that some are skeptical about our ability to hold our single aisle rates, there are several factors that support our rationale around this rate assumption." Bell says Boeing was careful not to ramp up 737 rates too high during the up cycle. Instead, he says the company worked with customers to keep rates steady for a longer time. "We had over committments of delivery positions and a large backlog of over 2,000 737's." So he says Boeing has been able to absorb order deferrals and cancellations on the 737 without cutting production. Boeings had 215 deferrals through the third quarter this year, but says, since then, order deferrals are slowing down. Also, Bell says airlines are replacing older less fuel efficient planes with ones to save money. "And that's helped us to be able to maintain those single aisle rates." Spirit Spokeswoman Debbie Gann says this is good news but also says Spirit is still working to control costs because of other production cuts. Now if the 787 successfully flies next week and gets on track, there will be more to celebrate in the new year.
10 Feb 2008 - Boeing considering increased production rate of 737Boeing may increase production of its popular 737 line of narrowbody airliners, if domestic carriers place orders soon for the planes.
In comments before Cowen & Co.'s Aerospace/Defense conference last week, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Scott Carson said the planemaker has mulled over whether to increase production of Boeing's best-selling line of aircraft. "It feels like there might be enough solid demand to do it, but we're watching very carefully," he said, according to TheStreet.com.
In addition to the question of whether suppliers could keep up with increased production rates, there's also the matter of whether a number of domestic carriers will soon place orders to justify the increase. During a conference call with investors last month, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said the planemaker has "been in extended discussions with a couple of the major carriers who have not participated in this order cycle. It wouldn't surprise me if a couple of deals with these folks came to fruition in '08."
Industry analysts think big Boeing orders from American and Delta may soon be forthcoming, as those carriers look to replace their fleets of McDonnell-Douglas MD80-family aircraft. American, for one, has said numerous times it wants to replace its aged MD-82s and -83s. The carrier is slowly replacing its 300-plane fleet of MD-80s with new 737-800s, from a previous order. The carrier is slated to receive 23 -800s through 2009.
This week, Carson (right) noted American's MD-80s "are not very efficient with this fuel price," and will need to be replaced sooner or later. If that order comes 'sooner,' it alone could be enough to support increased production.
Less certain are Delta's plans to replace its own MD-88s and -90s. Both types are somewhat newer than American's models, and have more-efficient turbofans. But airline spokesperson Betsy Talton says Delta has no plans for "a significant fleet replacement order anytime soon.
"The strategy is to improve the fleet we have," she added. "Acquisitions will be limited and strategic in nature."
There is a wild card, however -- a possible Delta merger with Northwest Airlines. If such a merger takes place, the combined carrier -- which many believe will be run by Delta -- may move quickly to replace Northwest's ancient DC-9 fleet. The DC-9s are paid for... but at such high fuel prices, the savings from using more efficient aircraft would likely offset the added cost of making lease payments.
If the decision to step up production comes, Boeing could make as many as 40 737s per month, up from its current level of 32 planes, according to industry analyst Scott Hamilton. "They've been looking at it for quite some time," he said. "The question has been whether the supply chain can do that."
Hamilton adds Carson criticized rival Airbus's plans in 2006 to ramp up production of the A320 narrowbody line. "In this hot market, it would be easy to be consumed with the desire to sell anything to people walking through the door who want to buy and push our production system to the point where you could break it," Carson said in September 2006, as reported by ANN. "It’s much harder to say, 'I’m sorry, we’re sold out.'"
Indeed, Boeing was hamstrung by that very problem in the late 1990s... and the resulting flood of Boeing planes in a cooling market, as it fought to compete with Airbus, almost bankrupted the planemaker.
There's also the question of whether Boeing's current five-year backlog on 737 production may be cut back drastically, as airlines seek to cancel orders due to slackening demand... which, depending on who you listen to, may or may not be coming.
27 Nov 2007 - 737 Flaps to be Built in VietnamTOKYO (AFP) — Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said Tuesday that it aimed to be the world's first manufacturer to open an aircraft-related production plant in Vietnam with a new facility due to open next year.
The production plant, which is due to open in Hanoi in January, will employ up to about 200 people when production picks up assembling flaps for the Boeing 737, a company statement said.
It said the move was in response to growing price competition, praising Vietnam's "diligent labour force, robust economy, stable public security and the presence of overseas transport routes."
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said it would be "the first manufacturer in the world to locate its aircraft-related production facility in Vietnam."
The Japanese group is looking to shift some of its assembly operations overseas and focus its domestic facilities on high value-added work.
Mitsubishi also manufactures wings for Boeing's next-generation 7E7 Dreamliner jet and is developing what it hopes will be the first passenger jet to be built in Japan.
The announcement coincided with a visit to Japan by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, whose country is enjoying rapid economic growth and luring a growing number of Japanese companies to set up production plants there.
Japan is a major market for Boeing, with Japanese carriers buying planes almost exclusively from the US aerospace giant.
28 Apr 2005 - Boeing Looks into Raising 737 ProductionBy Dan Roberts in New York
Boeing is examining ways to ramp up production of its short-to-medium range 737 aircraft as recent strong demand places strains on manufacturing capacity.
Some analysts believe there is now a 36-month wait for the US manufacturer's single-aisle jet, which has proved popular among budget airlines.
21 Apr 2005 - Boeing may cut back in WichitaIf Boeing Co. doesn't sell its Wichita commercial operation to Onex Corp., the airplane maker will likely reduce its presence there, a Boeing official said this week.
The Wichita site could be divided into fuselage work, strut and nacelle work and support work. The company also could outsource production of smaller parts and explore a sale of its fabrication business.
In short, Boeing would continue its overall strategy of focusing on large-scale systems integration, Morris said.
"We wouldn't be able to continue to invest the money into Wichita to allow it to grow," he said.
And Wichita likely would not receive major portions of future new airplane programs, including any replacement for Boeing's popular 737 or any new plane after the planned 787, Morris said. Boeing Wichita builds the 737 fuselage.
1 Apr 2005 - Asian Composites Manufacturing Selected to Produce Boeing 737 Aileron ComponentsThe Boeing Company and Asian Composites Manufacturing Sdn Bhd (ACM) recently celebrated the selection of the Malaysian company to produce aileron panels and components for the Boeing Next-Generation 737 family of airplanes and the first delivery to Hawker de Havilland this month. During the ceremony, Michael Rufert, managing director, Hawker de Havilland, presented a plaque to Dr. Nazily Noor, general manager, ACM. Nazily, displaying a sample composite aileron panel, then provided information on the components, their importance to ACM's business and ACM's selection for this important work.
Asian Composites Manufacturing Sdn Bhd -- a strategic alliance between Sime Darby Berhad and Naluri Berhad of Malaysia and Boeing and Hexcel Corporation of the United States -- is a world leader in supplying composite materials to the global aerospace industry. Hawker de Havilland, a Boeing subsidiary, headquartered in Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, is the integrator for 737 ailerons.
Ailerons are hinged sections on the trailing edge of each wing that are used to help the airplane to bank, allowing the airplane's flight path to curve.. Ailerons typically work in opposition to each other -- the right aileron is deflected in the opposite direction that the left is deflected.
The aileron components are shipped to Hawker de Havilland for incorporation into complete aileron units. Final assembly for the Boeing 737 family is based in Renton , Wash.
"We are delighted to be entrusted with the manufacture of these Boeing Next- Generation 737 aileron components and we look forward to providing the world's airlines with the high quality and reliability that they associate with the 737 family," said Dr. Nazily. "Because of the rapid growth of the global commercial airplane market and the extreme popularity of the 737, this new work will increase our production by about 15 percent."
ACM currently produces advanced composite structures for wings of all Boeing jetliners in production. The ACM facility, located in Bukit Kayu Hitam, commenced production in June 2001 and employs more than 310 skilled Malaysians, along with an all-Malaysian management team.
"The selection of ACM is evidence that the management and production teams have proven their dedication and commitment to excellence," said Dr. Dinesh Keskar, senior vice president, Sales -- Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "This is an excellent example of a growing partnership between Boeing and the Malaysian aviation industry."
2 Mar 2005 - Alcoa has agreed to a multi-year contract with Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory to provide aluminum parts for the tail section assembly of the Boeing 737, the companies announced Monday.Alcoa's China Alcoa Global Extruded and End Products business will produce 650,000 pounds of hard alloy aluminum extrusions a year at plants in Lafayette, Ind., and South Korea starting immediately. Alcoa already supplies aluminum sheet and plate and aerospace fasteners to Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing.
13 Feb 2005 - The new weapon in Airbus rivalry: speedDown on the Renton factory floor, Boeing's fight to win back 737 market share from rival Airbus has become a matter of time.
To cut costs, Boeing must move the airplanes through its factory more swiftly, and Renton director of manufacturing Larry Loftis is paring the production cycle to a tautness unimaginable just a few years ago.
Just last week, Boeing announced it had cut the time to move a Boeing 737 through the factory to 11 days, half the time required only five years ago. Loftis and his team sliced two days from the process in just the last six months alone.
Next Loftis wants to assemble the aircraft in eight days, from start to finish, 18 months from now.
Then he wants to lower it to six days.
"We think there's tons of opportunity here," he said. "We've barely scratched the surface."
Observers believe that cost-cutting is critical for the 737, which is now Boeing's smallest available aircraft and which has lost ground to the Airbus A320 models after a series of significant Airbus wins. That trend started in the fall of 2002, when British discount carrier easyJet chose Airbus for 120 model A320s, replacing Boeing as its fleet supplier. And this year discounters AirAsia and Air Berlin also chose Airbus over Boeing, with 40 and 70 Airbus 320 orders, respectively.
While Boeing brass has suggested the Airbus aircraft were sold below cost, Airbus officials have said the sales were profitable. Airbus now has 1,028 model A320s on order, compared with Boeing's 776 model 737s.
"Those three really hurt, when you put them together," said Paul Nisbet, president of JSA Research in Rhode Island, about the Airbus wins. "I think quite a bit of it is about price. That seems to be the reason most often given by the buyers for their selection."
Speed translates directly into savings by, among other things, preventing Boeing from carrying the high costs of unused inventory. Production problems can be more quickly solved if there are fewer aircraft on the line, and fewer parts in bins. Faster production means fewer worker hours per aircraft.
And because the focus is reducing waste, not rushing, the company is getting there by involving everyone, from engineers to machinists. Together, they're trying to figure out ways to pare excess. Reducing complexity can decrease potential variables, increasing quality even as production times are cut, Loftis said.
The goal, Loftis said, "is to be able, at the end of the day, to make the airplane at a lower cost."
Some of the methods the production teams are expanding include:
Learning which aircraft parts can be standardized and which are variable. Then systems can be set up to automatically "pull" from suppliers the standard parts, about 60 percent of the aircraft, leaving humans free to focus attention on fewer variable parts. Developing visual cues that tell workers if there's a problem in their part of the line and where it is, so it can be swiftly fixed. Bringing tools and parts to workers in "kits," so workers no longer have to go looking for what they need. Simplifying the aircraft itself, so that assemblies are larger and more standardized, and so that fewer types of fasteners are used. Reducing inventory so there's less complication. Forming temporary week-long action teams any time there are problems, so those problems can be solved permanently. Moving line workers, managers and engineers into close proximity in the same building, to improve and speed communication. Creating more permanent teams to focus on parts of the airplane. Keeping the aircraft moving past the workers and parts so that workers can focus on assembling instead of looking for things. One indication of how Loftis is pushing the curve is that he's already divided the 737 moving production line into eight "flow day positions," which is three fewer than the 11 days it now takes to make a plane. The disconnect keeps workers thinking toward the goal of even-faster production rates.
"It keeps everyone in the mindset of, 'we're not there yet,'" he said.
Five years ago, when 22 aircraft would be in production at once, Loftis remembers that engineers and machinists were spending hours talking about the details of each aircraft and problems that were cropping up. At any one moment, nobody knew exactly what was going on.
Now, any problem is obvious for all to see.
Looking down the line, everyone can see eight large scoreboard-like panels, each one topped by a color beacon that reflects the production status. When the line is running smoothly, all eight beacons are green. Loftis likes to call the panel areas "concierge desks," because each is staffed with helpers who can help solve problems if they arise.
Each panel displays the name of up to 16 different teams, which specialize on specific parts of the aircraft. And the self-assigned team monikers tend to be playful, with names like Tube Techs, Crawlers, or Shakers.
If a problem arises a worker hits a button, and the green light suddenly changes to yellow. The board lights up with the name of the group encountering the problem and its category. A team member goes to a nearby computer, open to the factory floor, and writes a description of the problem in more detail. The station's "concierge," as Loftis likes to call it, can call in an emergency team to solve the problem. If the problem isn't solved in 30 minutes the light turns purple and the line, running at two inches an hour, stops until it's fixed.
One of Loftis' goals is to develop more visual cues to make the production status more accessible for everyone working on the aircraft.
He's also planning to create a second moving line to replace the sideways shifting of the first four fuselages just after they enter the plant, now done by cranes. The fuselages are stuffed with wires and insulation in the first days.
"We have now been able to segregate the portion of the airplane that is basic and stable. It allows us, for those systems, to put them on automatic pilot," Loftis said. "We do have a strategy of getting fewer and simpler parts going into the airplane."
Then there's the matter of toolboxes.
Not too many years ago, machinists' toolboxes served as a mark of distinction and accomplishment. Mounted on wheels, they weighed hundreds of pounds and were emblazoned with decals from the program their owners had worked on. Their owners rolled them out at the beginning of a shift, and then parked them when their shift was done.
Now the boxes are gone from the Renton plant; the last left just months ago.
Instead of workers bringing their own tools, now the tools they need are delivered to the assembly stations in "kits," each tool in its place for a particular job, always in a blue plastic box. Parts come in gray boxes; hazardous materials come in green boxes.
The result is the workers no longer spend much of their time looking for tools and parts; they just put things together.
"We're trying to treat our mechanics like surgeons so they don't have to go look for anything. Everything is provided right at the aircraft," he said.
27 Jan 2005 - Boeing Reduces 737 Airplane's Final-Assembly Time by 50 PercentThe Boeing Next-Generation 737 airplane is making history again as the application of lean manufacturing techniques gives it the shortest final-assembly time of any large commercial jet.
The 737, the world's most popular commercial airplane model, is now assembled in 11 days at the company's Renton , Wash. , facility. That's a 50 percent reduction since lean techniques were introduced there in late 1999.
"Speed is just one aspect of this remarkable achievement," said Carolyn Corvi, 737/757 Programs vice president and general manager. "With market conditions for airlines constantly changing, shorter assembly times allow them to make decisions about interior configuration and systems closer to delivery. That's a great benefit to them."
"We're not going to stop at a 50 percent reduction, but improving our production system isn't just about doing things fast. It's about doing everything better, continuously enhancing the quality of our products and the processes we use to design and build them," Corvi added.
In addition to reducing assembly time, the 737 program has reduced work-in-process inventory by 55 percent and stored inventory by 59 percent.
The program's moving assembly line is the most compelling symbol of the factory's lean improvements. That line moves products from one assembly team to the next at the steady pace of two inches per minute. Other lean techniques Boeing uses include just-in-time delivery systems, point-of-use staging of tool and parts kits, standardized work processes, and visual control systems.
The lean techniques, which Boeing is applying to other production lines, enable a smooth, continuous production flow, enhancing the quality and efficiency of production processes.
11 Dec 2004 - More Outsourcing by BoeingFurther signs of globalization in manufacturing came from Alcoa and Xian Aircraft Co., China’s largest aircraft manufacturer. The two signed a multi-year contract for aluminium extrusions for the tail section assembly of the popular Boeing 737 model. Alcoa plants in Indiana, Arizona and South Korea will move aluminium to the Chinese manufacturer of an American aircraft sub-assembly. Alcoa shares retreated .76 to 32.10. The shares have fallen from 38.00 last Dec. 31, despite rising revenues and profits.
22 Sep 2004 - Shanghai delivers its 500th 737 horizontal stabilizerBeijing, Sept. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Shanghai Aircraft Manufacture Factory yesterday delivered the 500th next-generation 737 horizontal stabilizer to the Boeing Company, marking another significant milestone in the Boeing-China aviation partnership.
"The delivery underscores the key role China's aviation manufacturing companies have in Boeing's global supplier network," said David Wang, president of Boeing China, China Daily reported Tuesday.
The next-generation 737, the newest member of the Boeing 737 family, continues the 737's pre-eminence as one of the world's best-selling and most reliable commercial jet planes.
The factory has had a mutually beneficial relationship with Boeing since 1995 when the project was launched and it delivered the first set of 737 horizontal stabilizers to Boeing in 1999.
"Everything is going on smoothly and now the factory produces 14 sets a month," Wang said.
Boeing's 737 family has won orders for more than 5,300 airplanes. China operates 296 Boeing 737s, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the commercial jets flying in China.
The next-generation 737 planes will be delivered to clients in 2008 after one year's trial flying, said Wang.
"We remain excited about the 737 and we will continue to invest in and improve the next-generation 737 family," said Larry Loftis, director of 737/757 Operations, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
China Aviation Supplies Import & Export Corp signed an agreement with the Boeing Company in October 2001 for 30 Boeing 737 jetliners, valued at approximately US$1.6 billion.
In September 2004, Boeing finalized an order agreement with Air China for seven new next-generation 737-700 jetliners, Loftis said.
"Talks with other Chinese airlines about new orders are under way," Wang said.
At present, Boeing is co-operating with factories in Xi'an, Chengdu, Shenyang, Chongqing and Harbin to manufacture 737 vertical fins, 747 trailing edge ribs, 757 horizontal stabilizers, 757 cargo doors and 737 tail section module.
"We will further help those factories to enlarge their capability of manufacturing parts and components for 737 planes," Wang said.
Boeing's investments are growing and its procurements of aviation hardware from China total about US$500 million to date and are expected to reach US$1.3 billion by 2010, he said.
Boeing is continuously expanding its partnerships in China, as evidenced by current efforts to create a Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services joint venture to be based at Shanghai Pudong Airport.
The venture is being set up to modify, maintain and repair Boeing airplanes, he said.
29 Apr 2004 - Boeing to increase production of 737The airline industry environment remains mixed with trends varying between carriers and regions. A number of low-cost carriers continue to gain market share, remain profitable and order new airplanes. There have been encouraging signs that the global economy and air traffic are recovering and that airline interest is increasing. Commercial Airplanes is experiencing increased demand for 737s as airline passengers continue to value frequent, direct routes and airlines focus on reducing costs. As a result, the Company expects airplane deliveries to increase slightly in 2005 before a further increase in 2006.
The Company expects deliveries in 2004 to be approximately 285 airplanes. In 2005, deliveries are now expected to total approximately 300 airplanes, up slightly from previous expectations that it would be the same as 2004, driven by increased demand for single-aisle airplanes. The delivery forecast is essentially sold out for 2004 and 92 percent sold for 2005. The increase in deliveries is reflected in improved Commercial Airplanes revenue and operating earnings guidance ranges. Demand for aircraft spares has recently improved and is expected to slowly strengthen as this market recovers more fully in 2005.
09 Apr 2004 - Boeing sees boost of aviation supplier in ChinaXI'AN, April 9 (Xinhuanet) -- US aviation giant Boeing hopes that its Chinese part supplier Xi'an Aircraft Industry (Group) Co., Ltd.(XAC) will cooperate with its in future development, a top Boeing China executive said here Thursday.
David Wang, president of Boeing China, made the remark at a ceremony celebrating XAC's delivery of the 1,000th vertical fin for Boeing 737 in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province in northwest China.
"XAC has become a major partner of Boeing in China, as 80 percent of Boeing's 737 airplanes are equipped with parts manufactured by XAC," said David Wang.
A survey of Boeing employees shows that they are satisfied with XAC products, said Wang.
As one of the largest aircraft manufacturing companies in China, XAC has cooperated with Boeing for 20 years. Since their first contract in 1984, XAC has produced nearly 3,000 B737 vertical fins, horizontal stabilizers and access gates for Boeing with an export volume of 198 million US dollars.
According to Gao Dacheng, manager of XAC, the company has become the biggest supplier of vertical fins for B737, capable of producing 10 sets per month. By the end of this year, the figure will rise to 14.
The 260-million-US dollar contract for manufacturing 1,500 new style B737 vertical fins was signed in August 1995.
13 Jun 2003 - 737 Production to be Increased to 17 Aircraft a Month from NovemberFor the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Boeing plans to increase the speed of one of its commercial aircraft production lines. Union employees in Seattle and Wichita said Thursday that Boeing is beginning to ramp up parts production and to prepare more work stations on its Renton 737 assembly line. While company spokeswoman Sandy Angers declined to comment on production rates, Renton workers say they've been told 737 production will jump from 14 planes a month now to 17 a month in November. Boeing halved its 737 production rates after airlines postponed and cancelled orders following the terrorist attacks and subsequent economic downturn. Renton was producing 28 planes a month in mid-2001.
The single-aisle 737 has been Boeing's best-selling airplane this year with 37 of the company's 40 new orders being for 737s. The rate increase will affect production of 737 fuselages, engines struts and nacelles and other parts at Boeing's Wichita, Kan., plant before it reaches Renton. The Wichita Eagle reported this week that production of those subassemblies will ramp up beginning in August at Boeing's plant there. Those large parts are shipped by rail to Renton for final assembly. In Wichita, Boeing spokesman Dick Ziegler said workers may be shifted to the 737 from other jobs, and a few of the 5,000 workers laid off there may be recalled.
28 March 2002 - Boeing trims 737 assembly lineRENTON -- Boeing Co. has announced it will consolidate production of its 737 jetliner into a single assembly line at its Renton plant next month and may eventually produce 757s on the same line.
The consolidation was prompted by a post-Sept. 11 slump in demand for new airliners and a push to increase production efficiency, the company said.
The single 737 assembly line will follow the "moving line" concept, in which planes are built continuously, advancing through the factory in a nose-to-tail fashion.
If production demand improves, a second line may be reopened, Boeing spokeswoman Sandy Angers said.
Angers acknowledged the company is studying whether 757s can be built in a single line along with 737s, but called it a distant prospect.
"It isn't something that's done in the aircraft industry," she said, "but it's not uncommon in the auto industry."
Boeing, which moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago last year, has periodically hinted that it is looking at moving narrow-body construction from Renton to vacant space in its Everett plant.
But Alan Mulally, the president of the company's commercial airplanes division, recently assured business leaders the company has no present plans to abandon its Renton plant.
Meanwhile, Boeing is more than halfway through its plan to lay off 30,000 commercial airplane workers. More than 23,000 layoff notices have been given out so far, most of them in the Puget Sound area. Of those, nearly 19,000 workers are already off the job.
SEATTLE, Oct 17, 2001 - Boeing to cut production in half; 737 hit hardestBoeing will be building half as many jetliners in the Puget Sound area by late spring, according to the aerospace giant's revised production schedules being issued to suppliers.
Total production of five jetliner models assembled in Everett and Renton will fall from 43 per month to 23 a month by the middle of next year, a 47 percent drop that exceeds some industry observers' worst expectations. The Seattle Times obtained the figures from two Boeing suppliers.
Boeing would not comment on the rates.
Production of the 737, Boeing's biggest seller, will decline the most, dropping from 28 planes a month now to 14 a month by the middle of 2002. The single-aisle 757 and the popular twin-aisle 777 also will be hard hit, with production falling nearly 63 percent and 40 percent, respectively, by around May.
The pace of the production slowdown is staggered, with the 767 reaching its lower rate by the first quarter and the 737 not until the middle of next year.
5 August 2001 - 737 production rate reaches new high of 28 per monthBy JAMES WALLACE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
RENTON -- At a time when airplane orders are down and deliveries of new planes are expected to follow, The Boeing Co. is about to do something it has never done before at its airplane factory here.
In a matter of days, the 737 production rate will reach 28 planes a month.
That's the highest rate ever for the 737, and establishes a new production pace that has been in the planning for more than a year for the popular twinjet.
"Everything is going well," Carolyn Corvi, vice president of the 737 program, said in an interview.
"As we work into this increase in rates, what we have done with 'lean' has helped us do this much more smoothly than maybe we would have expected to do in the past."
Those lean manufacturing methods being implemented for the 737 program include the first continuously moving production line.
By the first half of next year, Corvi said, today's three 737 production lines will be collapsed to two lines -- still producing 28 planes a month.
At first glance, it might seen odd that Boeing is increasing the production rate of its 737 to record levels during a severe downturn in the airline industry, when many analysts predict that orders for single-aisle jets such as the 737 will be down substantially over the next couple of years.
Last year, Boeing won 391 orders for the 737. So far this year, customers have placed only 83 firm orders. Boeing is expecting an additional 30 to 40 orders for the 737 from China this year, possibly later this month or next.
Boeing has said it will deliver 538 jets this year, but that production would slip to between 510 and 520 jets in 2002.
The company told analysts last month it expects only a "modest" reduction in production in 2003.
Boeing does not break out its production projections by model.
Some analysts believe Boeing might have to cut its 737 production rates toward the end of next year if orders don't pick up.
But Boeing does have a healthy 737 backlog of planes that have been ordered but not yet delivered.
Of Boeing's total backlog of about 1,500 planes, 952, or 64 percent, are for the 737.
Even if Boeing did not win any more orders for the 737, the backlog represents three years' worth of production.
And the more planes Boeing can turn out a month, the greater the opportunity to capitalize on the many cost-saving changes that have been made in the production of the world's most frequently flown jetliner.
"The more airplanes that go out the factory door, the better the benefits," Corvi said.
Boeing announced in June 2000, on the heels of a nearly 100-plane order from Southwest Airlines for the 737, that it would boost production from 24 planes a month to 28.
The target then was to reach the higher rate this month.
Production rates cannot be changed quickly. Suppliers, for example, must be told months in advance that they will need to produce more or fewer parts.
"We always want to avoid jerking rates up or down," Corvi said. "That's not only counterproductive but expensive.
"As we work to manage our production system, one of the things we always look at is how do we manage the rates in such a way that allows us to support the demand from the market and at the same time allows us to manage our production so that it's not costing us a fortune to build the airplane."
The previous high production rate for the 737 was 27 in a month, when the older "classic" series jets were still being produced in 1999. Production of those models ended late that year.
Now Boeing is only building its next generation 737-600, -700, -800 and -900 models.
And the changes that are being made in the Renton factory are as significant as those that separate the new 737s from the older models.
Since late 1999, five days have been shaved from the 737's cycle time. That's the time from when the 737 fuselage -- which is shipped to Renton by rail from Wichita, Kan. -- is placed in the first tooling jig in the factory until a complete airplane rolls out of the factory.
The cycle time is now down to 18 days.
And it will probably go lower.
"We just keep working to reduce it," Corvi said.
The moving line is a critical part of the 737 production plan.
Although the processes have grown much more complex, the same basic station-to-station production method has been used for decades to build commercial jetliners.
Planes are typically moved from one station to the next and parked each time at a slant.
On a moving line, the planes are parked nose to tail. Once the moving line is fully implemented at the Renton factory, planes will be pulled along the line at a constant rate, though the line can be stopped at any time if there is a problem.
"The real focus around moving the airplane has been to force us to a situation where we continue to reduce our inventory," Corvi said. "We have seen more and more space being freed up in our factory where we used to store a lot of parts."
What's known as the "parts control area" of the Renton factory has been reduced by 26 percent since the first quarter of 2000. Only 90,000 square feet of factory space is needed now, compared with 121,000 square feet before.
More space will be freed when the third 737 line disappears next year. The plan is to have both remaining lines be continuously moving from the point where the wings are joined to the fuselage until the plane leaves the factory door.
To accomplish that, the moving line is being implemented in stages, beginning with the final assembly station before the jet leaves the factory.
Corvi said she recently invited Boeing's other airplane program managers to see what is happening with 737 production in Renton.
Those program managers meet every week in a conference room to discuss what each is doing.
"The purpose of (going out on the factory floor) was to walk them through the progress we have made on the 737 line," Corvi said.
"Rather than just read about it, they got to go out on the floor and talk with people and ask questions and really see it for themselves."
A moving line is expected to next be used to assemble the 757 in the same Renton factory. The concept possibly will be implemented over time at the Everett factory, where Boeing builds its widebody jets.
And it is almost certain to be used in the assembly of Boeing's planned sonic cruiser later this decade.
30 Jun 2000 Boeing to Boost 737 Production - Seattle Post
By JAMES WALLACE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
On the heels of a record 737 order yesterday from Southwest Airlines, Boeing announced plans to increase production next year of its popular twinjet.
The rate will increase from the current 24 per month to 28 with deliveries in the third quarter of 2001. The 737 is built in Renton, along with the 757.
That will be the most 737s Boeing has ever produced in a month. The previous record was 27, when the older "classic" series jets were still in production last year.
But the final classic jet was delivered in December, and Boeing now builds only the more advanced version of the 737 known as the next generation. There are four models -- the 737-600/700/800/900.
The first 737-900, which will be the longest 737 ever, will roll out July 23, Boeing said yesterday. After flight testing it will be delivered to launch customer Alaska Airlines next year.
The last time Boeing ramped up production on the next generation 737 line was in March 1999, when the rate went from 21 planes per month to 24.
Boeing said the 2001 rate increase reflects strong sales for the next generation models, and not just the big order from Southwest for 94 jets.
It is not clear what the higher rate will mean for employment. Because of improved cycle times and other factory efficiencies, Boeing is able to build more airplanes with fewer workers.
At a teleconference with Southwest executives, Alan Mulally, president of Boeing's commercial jetliner business, said the overall outlook for Boeing planes is improving.
He said deliveries could be a little better than projected for 2001.
Boeing had forecast that it would deliver about 490 jets in 2001 -- about the same as this year. But 2001 deliveries could top 500, Mulally said.
The industry, which has been in one of its typical downturns that follows a boom cycle, has started to improve with the economic rebound in Asia. Boeing delivered a record 620 planes in 1999.
But last year, Boeing had orders for only 391 jetliners, down from 648 in 1998.
Counting the latest Southwest purchase, Boeing has 289 firm orders so far in 2000, and the year is only half over. Of those, 221 are for the next generation 737. That is nearly equal to all next generation 737 orders in 1999.
As the Post-Intelligencer reported yesterday, Southwest took options and other purchase rights for an additional 196 next generation 737s. All are for the 737-700, for which Southwest was the launch customer.
The Dallas-based airline, the nation's seventh largest, flies only 737s.
Southwest already has 74 next generation 737-700s on order. Deliveries under the new order will begin in 2002, adding 10 planes to the current 21 scheduled for delivery that year.
The 94 firm orders from Southwest is the largest Boeing has ever received for the 737. They will be delivered through 2007.
At the average list price for the 737-700, the firm orders are worth about $4.5 billion.
Southwest now has 323 Boeing 737s in its fleet.
Herb Kelleher, Southwest's chairman, told reporters during the teleconference his airline needs the new jets so it can continue to expand about 10 percent annually as it serves new markets along the East Coast.
28 Apr 2000 737-900 Assembly begins - Seattle PostThe longest 737 fuselage ever built was to roll through Seattle on a couple of railroad cars early today on its way to The Boeing Co.'s Renton plant, where workers will begin assembling the last member of the company's next-generation family of single-aisle jets.
It was transported here from Boeing's plant in Wichita, Kan., where all next-generation 737 fuselages are manufactured.
"We expect the 737-900 to be very successful," said Steve Ford, Boeing's regional director of product marketing. "When operators begin to see the efficiency this plane brings, the economics will be very compelling."
Boeing has so far landed 45 firm orders for its newest 737, including 10 from Alaska, 15 from Continental, four from KLM and 16 from Korean Air.
The 737-900 is scheduled to roll out of the Renton plant in late July, with first flight near the end of August. After a six-month flight-test program and certification, it should be ready for delivery to Alaska next April.
Begun in November 1997 with the order from Alaska, the 737-900 joins three other smaller siblings in the next-generation family -- the -600, -700 and -800 series.
This is the last offspring, Boeing says.
"We are not expecting any larger family members, and no smaller family members, either," Ford said.
The 737-900 is a stretched version of the 737-800. Boeing added a forward body plug of 62 inches and an aft plug of 42 inches, which increased the overall length by 8 feet 8 inches.
In a two-class configuration, the additional length allows the 737-900 to carry about 15 more passengers than the 737-800. But the increased size and weight mean slightly less range. The 737-900 can fly 2,745 nautical miles, about 200 miles less than the 737-800.
The 737-700 can fly the farthest of the four models -- 3,260 nautical miles.
The maximum seating capacity of the 737-900 is 189, a limit imposed by federal regulation based on the number of exit doors and how quickly passengers can get out in an emergency.
All four next-generation models have the same wingspan.
The -600 series is the shortest of the four, at 102 feet 6 inches. It carries about 110 passengers in a two-class configuration. The 737-900 is 138 feet 2 inches in length.
The 737-900 fuselage, which includes everything but the tail section and the nose radome, is 124 feet 4 inches long. That's 4 feet longer than the Wright brothers' first flight.
It is so long that a secondary railroad track must be used during the short trip through Seattle's downtown railroad tunnel. Boeing discovered last year when it sent a mockup of the 737-900 fuselage on a test run by rail from Wichita to Renton that because of the angle, the fuselage hit the tunnel walls when track No. 1 was used.
That was the only transportation problem encountered on the 2,019-mile journey from Wichita, though Boeing found it had to cut back a wall at its Renton plant by 2 feet where the fuselage is unloaded from the rail car.
The first of the next-generation jets, which can fly higher, farther and with much greater operating economics than the older model 737s, was the 737-700. It rolled out of the Renton factory in December 1996.
Through the end of March, Boeing had firm orders for 1,404 of the next-generation jets, not including the Boeing Business Jet, which is a version of the 737-700. Of those ordered, 451 have been delivered to airlines.
The next-generation 737s compete with the Airbus A320 family, which has proved a formidable rival. The A320 family consists of the A319, a shrunken version of the mother plane, and the A321, which is a stretch.
Airbus has won several significant competitions the past couple of years in which its A320 went head to head with the next-generation 737.
But the Boeing planes are selling fairly well, especially the 737-800, which has 655 orders, and the 737-700, with 600 orders. The 737-600 has so far done poorly in the market, with only 104 orders.
Airbus claims its single-aisle plane is technologically superior, because Boeing based the next generation on a design that is almost 40 years old.
The first 737-100 was built in the mid-1960s. Boeing counters that the next-generation 737 is more advanced than the A320, which entered service in the 1980s.
Richard Aboulafia, senior aerospace analyst at the Teal Group, said the next-generation 737 is a very good airplane.
"I say it's good enough and more successful than generally appreciated," he said. That's especially true of the 737-700 and 737-800, he said, noting that American Airlines recently decided to buy the 737-800, the first time American has chosen Boeing's 737.
He thinks the 737-900 will do well, too.
"That's the ultimate air transport as a commodity," he said. "A large number of people in a jet with few bathrooms. It can't be pleasant, but it sure will be cheap."
Because of the good operating economics, airlines are using their new 737-700s and 737-800s on longer, non-stop routes, including coast to coast. Aloha Airlines, for example, recently began 737-700 service between the Hawaiian Islands and Oakland, Calif.
Some passengers do not like to fly the new 737s on such long routes, arguing it is too uncomfortable for a four- to five-hour flight.
"Is it comfortable? Not really," Aboulafia said. "But comfort is not really an issue on domestic flights. Air transport, domestically, is a commodity. It is no different than taking the train or the bus. It's not something you do to enjoy the food or play billiards. You want to go from point A to point B as cheaply as possible."
Although Boeing plans no more entries in its next-generation family, the company is expected to develop the 737-700X, which would be a superlong-range version that could fly more than 4,000 nautical miles. Boeing sees a possible niche market for the jet on routes between Europe and the East Coast.