Boeing will speed up the consolidation of 787 production in South Carolina so that Everett will lose final assembly of the airplane by March rather than the originally announced timeline of mid-2021, according to an internal company memo.
The memo to all 787 employees was sent by Lane Ballard, Boeing vice president and general manager of the 787 program and site leader at the North Charleston, South Carolina, manufacturing site.
“Production and delivery consolidation in South Carolina … will take place in March 2021,” Ballard wrote.
The company’s reduction of the 787 production rate from 6 airplanes a month to 5 will also be implemented by then, he said.
Ballard’s memo states that 787 employees in Everett will continue to work after the March transfer of final assembly, inspecting the already completed 787s for the quality defects that have been discovered at the fuselage join and performing any needed repairs.
“I know you will have many questions, chief among them may be what will be the impact to employment. We are working through details,” Ballard told the employees.
“There is no plan to shift teammates from Everett to South Carolina, or vice versa,” the memo states, adding that the work to inspect the fuselage joins “will likely extend 787 work in Everett beyond the production consolidation plan.”
Boeing spokesperson Jessica Kowal said about 1,000 people work directly on the 787 program in the Puget Sound region.
The revised timeline for the Everett plant was news to Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers.
“I am deeply concerned for those whose livelihoods depend on the 787 line,” he wrote in an email. “The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Snohomish County hard and this is one of the results. We know that the investments the Boeing Company has made and will make here will bring jobs back to Snohomish County.”
Boeing in August grounded eight 787s after discovering quality defects at the join of the aft fuselage. Last month, it expanded the scope of inspections to include all the joins in all the fuselage sections, which are manufactured Wichita, Kansas, and in Italy and Japan, as well as in South Carolina.
The examinations of already completed planes has led to a logjam of parked and undelivered 787 jets, which Boeing says it will take most of next year to clear.
Boeing is setting up what it calls “join verification” stations in both Everett and North Charleston where the work of inspecting and repairing the 787 fuselage joins will be done.
“Airplanes that are stored until delivery, and airplanes currently in our production system, will go through this join verification process,” the memo said.
In Everett, the final assembly line will be converted to this work.
Everett already has two join verification positions adjacent to Paine Field south of the giant final assembly building. By March “all four of the current Everett 787 final assembly positions will become join verification positions,” Ballard wrote.
“Additional join verification positions will be created in the South Carolina final assembly facility,” the memo said.
“Stored airplanes assembled in Everett will go to Everett for join inspection and delivery, and stored airplanes assembled in South Carolina will go to South Carolina for join inspection and delivery.”
Ballard closed his message by thanking employees for their work performing the fuselage inspections and particularly “those of you who have volunteered to work over parts of the holiday break in support of the effort.”
The Herald staff contributed.