Boeing & SPEEA: As we routinely do when it comes to trying to understand rhetoric of two warring parties (usually Airbus and Boeing but in this case SPEEA and Boeing), we reach out to third parties. We asked an aerospace engineer not associated with either Boeing or SPEEA about the Bloomberg interview with Boeing’s Mike Delaney in which Delaney was quoted as saying if SPEEA doesn’t accept Boeing’s terms, it will move engineering elsewhere.
Outsourcing engineering has been a sore point with SPEEA for some time and, frankly, outsourcing on the 787 and 747-8 created a lot of problems in the development of these aircraft. So Delaney’s threat can’t be dismissed.
But as with the 787 and 747-8, outsourcing isn’t a simple matter, either. Our third-party noted that engineering tasks may be unique enough that simply shifting work from groups in Seattle to engineers in Wichita (KS), where Boeing is closing its military operation, or to Boeing’s Defense engineers in St. Louis or elsewhere may hardly be a seamless transition.
Boeing, of course, will know this. But at a time when Boeing is ramping up production by 60% and has the 737 MAX, the 787-9, the 787-10, 777X and KC-46A programs underway, we’re not sure shifting work makes a lot of sense.
Even if quality work is assured–in contrast to some of the outsourcing on the 787 and 747-8 programs–and which is by no means a certainty during the switch, transition times could well slow the work at a time Boeing could ill-afford.
But Boeing looks at the long-term. It knew the risks in creating the 787 plant in Charleston. Recall that documents revealed the Charleston move to be high risk for quality, for learning curve and for cost–and the company proceeded anyway because it was fed up with the IAM 751 strikes (or because of incentives, depending on who you believe and we firmly believe the strike theory).
We’ve no doubt that Boeing is fully capable to damning the labor torpedoes. But we firmly hope common sense will prevail for both parties.
Even if a contract is reached, we also firmly believe Boeing will relocate engineering work from Seattle. The sheer volume of growth over the next several decades will demand it. If SPEEA believes otherwise, it’s whistling Dixie. And that’s probably where a lot of the future engineering will be regardless of the outcome of current talks.