Boeing’s humans step in after robots can’t handle assembly of 777 aircraft


Score one for the humans. After four years of trial and error, Boeing is dumping the robots that build two main fuselage sections for its 777 jetliners and the upgraded model known as 777X.

Instead, the planemaker will rely on skilled mechanics to manually insert fasteners into holes drilled along the circumference of the airplane by an automated system known as “flex tracks,” which it developed and honed on the 787 Dreamliner.

A Boeing factory in North Carolina. Credit:Bloomberg

The shift to the new human-plus-machine system began during the second quarter and should be complete by year’s end, Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said in a statement. Boeing doesn’t plan any change in total staffing for its 777 jetliners, which are manufactured in Everett, Washington, about an hour north of Seattle.

“The flex track solution has proven more reliable, requiring less work by hand and less rework, than what the robots were capable of,” he said.



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