To learn how to set up its new 777X wing factory, Boeing didn’t have to look far. In fact, the company is looking to its own 737 factories in Renton.
Boeing’s drive to increase Boeing 737 wing production, to efficiently keep up with rising aircraft production rates there, is giving the company many of the skills it needs to make the wings for the much-larger 777X. The company is also learning from its experience building the 787 wings overseas.
That’s according to Pat Shanahan, senior vice president and general manager of Boeing’s airplane programs.
“What this is, is lessons learned off the 737, what we’ve learned building wings on the 737,” Shanahan said during an interview after the groundbreaking for the new 777X wing plant in Everett Tuesday.
To be sure, the differences between the two wings are striking: The 737 wings are aluminum, much smaller, and will eventually be produced at 47 monthly. The 777X wings will be far larger, made of carbon composites, and built at far slower rates, perhaps 10 monthly at the peak.
But Boeing has been modernizing and automating its 737 wing facility in Renton to keep up with the rising demands. Many of Boeing’s process breakthroughs, such as the automated drilling equipment used in Renton, are migrating to the Everett plant.
“Each time we introduce a new product or each time we go up in production rate, it’s a window to do something better or more efficient,” Shanahan said. It’s no accident that Eric Lindblad, vice president of 777X wing integration, the person who’s putting together the new 777X wing assembly process, also developed the 737 wing line.