Boeing put the pedal down this year and committed itself to raising production of its most popular jet, the Boeing 737, to 52 planes a month.
There are two reasons for this.
The company has orders for 4,218 of the jets to fill, and it’s easier to win new orders when customers don’t have to wait seven years for their airplane.
In addition, Boeing wants to lift cash flow, as it spends heavily to develop the 777X, the 787-10, and the successor to the current 737, the 737Max.
Currently Boeing is running the twin 737 lines at Renton at an already-record rate, 42 monthly.
Next, that rate gets lifted to 47 in 2017, and 52 the next year.
Behind the scenes this year, Boeing been preparing for these rate hikes by reconfiguring its Renton plant in significant ways.
Most important, though, is the construction of the third assembly line. The new line is being built right next to Line One, which is the longest at Renton.
But to do this Boeing has had to clear that floor space and move other subassembly work elsewhere in the plant.
It’s also been completely transforming its nearby wing assembly plant into a much more automated and rapid process to stay pace with the 52 monthly.
While the rate change to 52 was made official in October, Boeing leaders had been hinting about it for months.
“I don’t see any reason why they can’t execute that going forward,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner, at the Morgan Stanley Laguna Conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., earlier this year. “When we were going to 47 we were thinking about higher, too.”