Boeing UK plant will help build wing flap actuation systems

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. is taking more production work in-house.

The work — making actuation systems to move wing flaps on 737s and 777 classics — will be split between Boeing’s existing Portland, Oregon, plant and a new factory in Sheffield, United Kingdom. The move will “enhance production efficiency and reduce cost in its supply chain,” the company said in a statement released Friday.

Like all airplane manufacturers, Boeing has relied on a global supply chain for decades. The aerospace giant aggressively outsourced production on its 787 Dreamliner program, which led to costly and lengthy production delays and other headaches.

Company leaders have indicated in the past couple of years that they are being more deliberate about choosing which work is outsourced. Boeing’s latest airplane program, the 777X, still depends on suppliers around the world, but less so than the 787.

The company expects to spend about £20 million ($24.9 million) to open Boeing Sheffield, its first manufacturing site in Europe. It will employ about 30 people and recruiting could start in 2018. Boeing has not said when it expects the 25,000-square-foot plant to open. It will operate as part of Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ (BCA) Fabrication operations.

The expansion is a “step-change in our engagement and a further example of Boeing’s commitment to grow here,” Sir Michael Arthur, president of Boeing Europe, said in Friday’s statement.

The company plans to build the new plant near the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, a collaboration between the school and Boeing.

“The expanded fabrication capability will grow our existing operations and strengthen our global services,” said Jenette Ramos, a BCA vice president and head of its Fabrication operations.

Boeing Sheffield will make the actuation systems with Boeing Portland, which is actually located just outside the city in Gresham, Oregon.

Bringing the work to Oregon won’t add jobs, but it will help keep the roughly 1,600 people working there employed, Boeing manager Don Hendrickson told The Oregonian.

“As we gain in productivity each year, if you don’t bring new work in then your size shrinks,” he said.

Outside the U.S., BCA Fabrication also has operations in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Melbourne, Australia.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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