Boeing To Further Increase The Monthly Production Rate On The 737-800


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Boeing To Further Increase The Monthly Production Rate On The 737-800

By Eddy Metcalf

December 6, 2011 - Boeing rolled out its first factory-complete Next-Generation 737 at the production rate of 35 airplanes a month on Sunday. The new 737-800 was towed to nearby Renton Field where Boeing conducts functional testing and first flights for all new airplanes.

Though the airplane still must undergo testing and painting, the milestone represents a major step in demonstrating that Boeing is on track to achieve its announced rate increase of the popular jetliner to 35 a month in early January when it delivers the airplane to Norwegian Air Shuttle.

"The team took lessons from past rate increases and said, 'We can do this better,' and all indications are that they have," said Beverly Wyse, vice president and general manager of the 737 program.

"We owe a special thanks to our partners in Boeing Supplier Management and Fabrication who have kept shortages at an unprecedented low level for this stage in the rate process." Teams have been preparing for more than a year in some cases. An example of early preparation can be seen in the production line where employees install electrical systems into the newly built wing boxes. The team eliminated a line where employees worked on both left-hand and right-hand wings and moved those employees to extended lines where they were dedicated to either the right-hand or left-hand wings, removing variables that slowed down production.

Additionally, in August, improvements to efficiency such as arranging the work and the work environment so that employees can more easily complete their tasks supports a rate of up to 42 airplanes a month. Boeing has taken a three-fold approach to prepare for the rate increases on the 737 program.

The company is making production processes more efficient by working with employee process improvement teams; increasing the production capacity with capital investments and making the site footprint more efficient by moving some production areas and expanding others; and decommissioning outdated equipment. Boeing will increase the 737 rate to 38 airplanes a month in the second quarter of 2013 and to 42 airplanes a month in the first half of 2014.

The 737-800 is a stretched version of the 737-700, and replaces the 737-400. It also filled the gap left by the decision to discontinue the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 and MD-90 following Boeing's merger with McDonnell Douglas. The -800 was launched by Hapag-Lloyd Flug (now TUIfly) in 1994 and entered service in 1998. The 737-800 seats 162 passengers in a two-class layout, or 189 in one class, and competes with the A320. For many airlines in the U.S., the 737-800 replaced aging Boeing 727-200 trijets.

The 737-800 is also among the models replacing the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 and MD-90 series aircraft in airline service; it burns 850 US gallons (3,200 L) of jet fuel per hour, or about 80% of the fuel needed by an MD-80 on a comparable flight, even while carrying more passengers than the latter. According to the Airline Monitor, an industry publication, a 737-800 burns 4.88 US gallons (18.5 L) of fuel per seat per hour. Alaska Airlines replaced the MD-80 with the 737-800, saving $2,000 per flight, assuming jet fuel prices of $4 per gallon. The fuel cost of each such flight (2008 prices) on a 737-800 is about $8,500.00.

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