Boeing brings back humans after 777 assembly automation issues

November 15, 2019 09:38
Boeing has tweaked its production strategy in relation to the fuselage sections for the 777 jetliners. Photo: Reuters

Boeing has scaled back use of automation to make fuselage sections for its 777 jetliners amid reports of reliability issues and returned to having mechanics do some of the work, Reuters reports.

The company began to build 777 fuselages in 2015 in an upright orientation, with robots drilling holes and installing fasteners, an initiative known as fuselage automated upright build (FAUB).

The planemaker was quoted as saying on Thursday that it has stopped using robots for the forward and rear sections of the fuselage.

Industry sources told Reuters that the system had caused problems with reliability and rework issues.

The company is now switching to “flex tracks” - an automated method to drill the holes along the circumference of the airplane that are then fastened manually.

The system was developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes and has been tested in commercial and defense programs, company spokesman Paul Bergman said in an emailed statement.

Implementation of flex tracks for the 777 fuselage began in the second quarter and Boeing expects the transition to be complete by the year-end, Bergman said.

There are no planned changes in total staffing and the company continues to implement robotic systems on areas such as wing manufacturing for the 777X.

For example, Boeing is still using robots for the middle section of the 777 fuselage, which it was still assembling in an upright orientation, Bergman said.

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