Boeing consolidates at Renton as 757 line ends

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GUY NORRIS / SEATTLE

Company set to move staff and surrender 40% of plant as activities are streamlined

Boeing is streamlining its Renton site, speeding up the 737 production line and consolidating its support infrastructure as it prepares to cease 757 production in October.

The company is moving 2,500 staff and giving up 40% of the Renton site under the reorganisation. The move consolidates the design, development and production activities of "everyone who touches the 737", says Helene Michael, 737 final assembly superintendent.

Design engineering and support staff are being moved into the building that accommodates final assembly for the 737 and 757. By year-end Boeing plans to consolidate all Renton site activity into three main buildings along the shore of Lake Washington. Production of 737 fuselages will remain at Wichita, says Michael.

Flow time for the assembly of 737s which once stood at 22 days "door-to-door" is due to move from 13 days to eight days by 2006. Based largely on the moving line system "airplane unit hours" are set to be reduced from the 5,800 seen on average in 2003 to 5,200 in 2004.

In 2005, Boeing plans to cut this to 4,500, with a further reduction to 4,000 in 2006. A critical part of the reduction is being made in the "join and installation" part of the production cycle, which is the last part of the assembly line to be modernised.

"We are going to connect this sequence into the moving line - that's the next evolution," says Michael, adding that the six-day flow for this part of the assembly process is expected to be cut to three days by 2006. The change is paralleled by modifications to the wing-body join process that now takes 16h against 30h two years ago.

The last of 1,050 757s to be built is due to be completed in October but will be placed in storage at the request of the customer, which is not due to accept it until next April.