Boeing Seeks to Potentially Consolidate 787 Plants
Due to COVID-19’s hard-hitting effects on the airline industry, Boeing is weighing the option to potentially combine its 787 plants in Everett and Charleston. The consolidation study was first announced in July after 787 production rates were slashed to six planes per month across the two assembly plants.
Should Boeing proceed with the consolidation, it’s likely that the Everett plant will lose out due to the efficiency and costs savings at the Charleston plant. The Charleston plant not only has a final assembly line for the 787, but also separate buildings that assemble the mid and rear sections of the fuselage, whilst the plant in Everett requires the use of the Dreamlifter to fly the mid and rear sections across the country.
Why is This Happening?
- At the current production rate of six planes per month, either plant alone could meet the requirement, hence, consolidation is the logical and most efficient choice, especially if one plant alone can meet the post-recovery demand of 10-12 airplanes per month.
- Pandemic has collapsed demand for airplanes.
- Boeing is still suffering from financial woes with the 737 MAX crisis. Consolidation would help them tremendously, owing to the financial strain of maintaining two low-rate 787 production plants.
- Building the 787 at Charleston is simply more efficient and cost-effective.
What do People Have to Say?
- If Everett is shut down, it would slash jobs in Washington and hurt the local economy. The mayor and district 751 president of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union both stress the importance of the jobs at the Everett plant, both in terms of helping out the local economy, as well as the residents.
- The IAM in particular is quite upset; the “union lobbied for the 2003 tax incentives and his members then overcame enormous assembly problems caused by Boeing’s far-flung global suppliers to finally get the jet program on track.” The district 751 president said it was disappointing that after all their efforts, the Everett jobs are at risk of being lost.
- The CEO of Boeing said should they move to consolidate, it would be a permanent move in efforts to solve problems for a more robust market.
So, What Happens to Everett?
- Consolidation will cause Washington’s aerospace factors to suffer from three to four years of hardship. The job losses from moving Everett’s 787 production to Charleston will cause 767/777 production costs to increase because Boeing will be operating a big plant with lower production numbers and deliveries.
- A Teal Group analyst says that to help save Washington’s aerospace industries, Boeing should start an all-new jet program at Everett. The plane should be an A321 competitor that’s a bit bigger and more capable.
- A rep. from a consulting firm believes Boeing should design a radically new, “green” plane to launch in 2030. The engineering work would fulfill the potential empty space in Everett, as well as create employment opportunities for engineers and technical manufacturing workers.
Boeing is yet to give details about its potential decision. When asked questions about consolidation, Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes CEO, Stan Deal, said Boeing’s “presence in Washington is unwavering.” Boeing said that future requirements and the production system’s long-term health would be key factors in the decision. While no further details or decision are available, many are arguing for Boeing to keep the 787 production facility in Everett, and it will be interesting to see how things play out at the end.