Boeing’s transition to more automation

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Robots drill holes for fasteners. Boeing photo via Google images.

Robots drill holes for fasteners. Boeing photo via Google images.

Sept. 12, 2016, © Leeham News: Boeing is on a transition to improve manufacturing efficiency that will take years to complete.

Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times Sunday provided a detailed comparison between the Airbus wing production plant in Broughton, Wales, and Boeing’s 777X wing production plant in Everett (WA).

The Broughton facility is a unit of ElectroImpact of Mukilteo (WA), next to Everett’s Paine Field, where all of Boeing’s wide-body assembly is done. ElectroImpact also is a supplier to Boeing.

Boeing is also adding robotics to the 777 Classic assembly process, from wing-painting to riveting. The latter has some glitches, Gates recently reported. Boeing officials blame delays and traveled work on a three-month strike by supplier Triumph Group. The robotics on the Classic are getting their baptism in advance of becoming the principal method of assembly on the new 777X, which begins in 2018.

Finally, or perhaps not, Boeing began a transition to more automation with the assembly of the 737 MAX. A dedicated, third assembly line was created for the MAX that includes more efficiencies.


  • Boeing, which began shifting to Lean Production and Six Sigma principals a decade or more ago, has made great strides.
  • But integrating advanced, automated assembly into mature programs in old factories has its disadvantages to “greenfield” sites and new airplane programs.
  • Opportunities to make great leaps forward come with the prospective Middle of the Market airplane and the replacement for the 737.

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