In the early 2000s the 737 program moved office workers out of underutilized buildings and into new work areas in vacant space in the Renton factory. Putting support people next to the factory team assembling the airplanes helped to improve communication and reduce flow time, enabling employees to build airplanes more efficiently.
Boeing saw an opportunity to cut production time by adopting the principles of Lean manufacturing. The Renton production system also evolved from putting airplanes in a slant, or angled, position in the factory to a nose-to-tail configuration. This enabled 737s to be produced on a pulse line or a moving line, much like the moving lines used to produce automobiles.
Renton has also been the home for production of both civil and military hydrofoil ships. Beginning with the U.S. Navy Hydrofoil Missileship USS Pegasus (PHM-1), launched in November 1974, Boeing employees produced five more Pegasus class ships — Hercules, Taurus, Aquila, Aries and Gemini between 1981 and 1982.
These were the first Boeing-built craft, and first hydrofoils, to be a commissioned as a United States Ship (USS).
Renton also produced commercial Jetfoil hydrofoils. Designed for passenger comfort at high speeds the standard configuration of the Jetfoil accommodated 250 passengers but design flexibility allowed variations for up to 350 seats.
Renton produced 24 Jetfoils between 1974 and 1985.
Engineers and mechanics on the 737 program collaborated to drastically reduce the number of parts that had to be assembled before installing systems in the wheel well of each 737. The result was a significant time savings and cost reduction on thousands of the world's best-selling commercial airplane — and all the 737s still on the company’s order books.
During engine build-up all systems needed to connect the engine to the wing and enable it to operate are installed. Engines used to arrive in the factory on a rail system, but the program switched to a tool that an operator can navigate through the factory and also use to raise and lower engines to prepare them for installation, including installing pre-assemblies.
A key driver of 737 MAX fuel savings is the new CFM LEAP-1B engine. The engine is designed for the rigors of the single-aisle operations and tailor-made for the 737 MAX. The chevrons at the back of the engine are designed to reduce noise.
New large flight-deck displays inside the first 737 MAX now come to life — glowing panels indicating that power is now coursing through the first airplane on the production line.
The new 737 MAX flight deck displays are exactly the same as the large 15-inch displays on the 787 Dreamliner. The flight deck is state-of-the-art today and provides the foundation to expand capabilities in navigation and data management, setting the stage for the next 20 years of advances in flight deck technologies.
The first flight of each new 737 model has changed significantly over the years as Boeing has developed new flight test processes. Brien Wygle, test pilot on the first-ever 737 flight, compares notes with Christine Walsh, the test pilot who flew the first flight of the new 737 MAX 9.