Video: Boeing’s Moving Line


Here's an interesting video showing Boeing's 737 line, moving at a takt time pace of 2 inches per minute.

The referenced video has been removed at Boeing's request (5/18/2010). I was embedding a video from YouTube that Boeing considered an infringement of their intellectual property. Yes, instead of just going straight to YouTube, Boeing has a team, apparently, of IP protection people who sit around emailing bloggers. At least they weren't as threatening as some companies might have been.

Here is another YouTube video that is hopefully OK:

Any thoughts from those in the industry about the pro's and con's of the moving line? Can you be “Lean” without a moving line?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Instinctively, I am skeptical of spending money on the infrastructure to move a 737 at 2-inches per minute. It’s very easy for this type of equipment to become a monument when demand changes, especially in a market as cyclical as aerospace. I witnessed this first hand in my company when demand switched from one family of products to another, and our once vaunted “lean moving line” was removed and replaced a new highly touted “lean” arrangement. Boeing’s situation is a bit different in a couple of ways. First, their large backlog of orders should give them early warning about coming changes. Second, I recall reading somewhere that rather than a permanent track, Boeing actual uses a tug with optical sensor that simply follows a line painted on the floor. That should give them a high degree of flexibility.
    What strikes me most in watching this video is the size of the aircraft itself. An automobile is very human in its scale. A single person, with very little motion can grab the tools, the parts, and the equipment he or she needs and approach the vehicle largely unaided. An aircraft, even a small one, is a very different proposition. Most parts are so large than they need lifts or carts to move and most of those lifts, carts, and platforms require more than one person to move.
    Without a moving line, the aircraft moves from station to station, ideally once per takt time beat, and at each station a set of platforms and lifts is built up around it, then removed to go to the next station. From the video, it looks like Boeing has found a fairly unobtrusive method for connecting carts and platforms to the tractor that pulls the plane along. Instead of tearing down and building up structures repeatedly, the plane and the structure move together, and the appropriate support gear is with the plane as long as needed. The platform at the nose of the plane seems to be along for the entire right, start to finish. Overall, at the speed that they are moving, I can see how this would save a lot of equipment moves.
    Everything that I’ve heard about the new, lower volume 787 production process suggests it will likely not have a moving line. I guess that moving slower than 2-inches per hour doesn’t make sense, even to Boeing.


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