New ‘Incredibles’ remake Renton, break 737 records

RentonToolingRENTON — Much like “The Incredibles” of the 1960s — men and women who built the first 747s while simultaneously building a massive airplane factory around them — a new generation of IAM 751 Machinists at Boeing is reconfiguring the company’s Renton factory and installing massive new tooling, while also assembling and delivering airliners at record rates.

“It is a testament to the tremendous talents of our membership,” said Jon Holden, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751. “I don’t believe it could have been done anywhere else in the world with this kind of success.”

In October, Holden toured the Renton factory to see first-hand the changes Machinists are making at the Boeing Co.‘s Renton plant that will allow them to build 52 737s a month there — and perhaps even more. A full report on what he learned is in the current edition of the AeroMechanic newsletter, which is now available online.

hagen explain jon edThe centerpiece of the project has been the assembly of a new production tool that is 420 feet long, stands three stories high and required pilings that were driven 80 feet into the ground. The tool is so large that the city of Renton considers it to be a building — a building that had to be put together with laser-pinpoint accuracy, with tolerances of .010 inches, which is about the width of three human hairs.

“Not only is it an enormous tool, but it is build to precision specifications,” Holden said.

To meet deadlines, the 60 Machinists Union toolmakers involved with the project have been building the tooling even as engineers were designing them.

“It is the biggest tooling project Renton has ever had,” said Union Steward Bill Young. “People are excited about new work, and it makes them want to do more.”

Yet while all this is going on, Machinists Union members are continuing to assemble and deliver 42 Boeing 737s each month. That’s an average of 2.5 airplanes — worth as much as $99 million each — every working day.

“We work together as a team,” Young explained. “We utilize all our skills and expertise on this project to keep production moving while we build new tooling around them.”

And if all that wasn’t enough, still other Machinists are preparing the Renton factory for the start of production on Boeing’s new 737 MAX models, which are scheduled for first deliveries in 2017. Once production begins on the 737 MAX, Boeing anticipates delivering as many as 52 737s, of all models, each month by 2018. That rate will be three times faster than what Machinists at Boeing able to produce just a decade ago.

“Our production members should also be recognized for their ability to adapt to new processes, new configures and ongoing construction in their work area while building 737s at record rates,” Holden said.

“The expertise and skills of our members cannot be understated,” he added. “We are up to any challenge. Our members in Renton truly are the next generation of ‘Incredibles.'”

Also in this month’s AeroMechanic, you can read:

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 33,000 working men and women at 51 employers across Washington and California.

To contact a IAM 751 officer to learn about how you can join the Machinists Union, click here.

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