Currently, the 777 fuselage sections are lifted by crane into heavy, fixed structures that hold them in place while hydraulic, electrical and other systems are installed, and then lifted out by a crane to another structure where the sections are joined together.

Boeing spokesperson Chuck Cadena told Cranes Today: “One of the results of moving lines and implementing lean manufacturing in our airplanes will be to eliminate the need for cranes, which tend to be a bottleneck in the assembly process.”

The alternatives are wheeled trolleys called “crawlers.” They will do the work of both the cranes and the fixed structures.

The “crawlers” are highly manoeuvrable, capable of rotating aircraft sections full circle and can expand or contract to fit the different fuselage lengths of various 777 models.

Explained Cadena: “We worked with a design company called Nova-Tech to develop the crawlers. They in-turn worked with a company to fabricate the equipment.”

However, the so-called crawlers are not used to lift anything. They essentially hold the fuselage piece and will eventually allow Boeing to use a moving assembly line for 777 manufacturing.

Previously, the tooling for the fuselage sections was fixed in place. Boeing still uses the existing crane equipment to place the fuselage sections in the new equipment.