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PARIS: Boeing mulls more automation for 737 line

Boeing is considering adding further automation to the wing-build process for its 737 line, which could enable future rate increases.

Keith Leverkuhn, vice-president and general manager for 737 programmes, says production flows have already benefited from the introduction automated processes for wing panels and spars at Boeing's Renton final assembly facility.

But, he says, the airframer is asking "where can we add automation into that [Renton]" which could "allow us to increase rates even higher".

Boeing is already committed to boosting 737 output to meet demand for its 737NG and Max families. Production is currently at 42 aircraft per month, rising to 47 by year-end, eventually arriving at 57 per month in 2019.

Leverkuhn says it has no specific processes in mind to automate, but adds: "We are really envisioning that we would continue to look in the wings area."

Increased automation will either allow the line to run faster in a specific area, or free up mechanics to be deployed elsewhere, says Leverkuhn.

However, he declined to speculate on how high any changes could enable Boeing to push output.

Meanwhile, Boeing is managing the transition at Renton between the NG family and the 737 Max.

Currently the Max is assembled on its own dedicated line, but later this year the first of the re-engined narrowbodies will be introduced to one of the NG lines as Boeing increases output.

"For us it is about bringing the Max rate up while we bring the NG rate down," he says.

Production of the 737NG is likely to be phased out around the end of the decade, Leverkuhn adds.

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