Pontifications: Boeing SC makes its case for 787 production consolidation—and it favors Everett

By Scott Hamilton

Sept. 14, 2020, © Leeham News:  Boeing’s South Carolina 787 final assembly plant has made its case whether to consolidate production in one location, or not.

The conclusion favors retaining dual assembly lines, retaining one in Everett.

This click-bait lead doesn’t mean Boeing SC management favors retaining dual assembly lines. Far from it.

More quality issues from Charleston

In the course of just two weeks, reports emerged about the grounding of eight 787s due to manufacturing defects from the Boeing SC plant; the possibility that more than 100 airplanes are potentially affected; and there is potentially a defect in the mating of the vertical fin to the fuselage.

Quality control at the Charleston plant has been a major issue since it opened, even after Boeing bought it from Alenia and a joint venture between Alenia and Vought. Employee turnover at Charleston historically is higher than desired, which hurts QC.

The Everett (WA) plant, with its long-time workers, have fixed traveled work from 787s emerging from the Charleston plant since inception. Some airlines refuse to take delivery of airplanes assembled in Charleston. (The Charleston Post and Courier last year published a damning story about this, complete with documentation about the poor QC.)

The Wall Street Journal reported last Monday—the Labor Day Holiday in the US—that QC issues at Charleston going back a decade are now being reviewed by regulators.

Everett’s workers are unionized by the International Association of Machinists District 751, but this isn’t a union story. This is a story about better performance in assembling airplanes and serving customers.

Not that Everett hasn’t had its own QC issues. But they pale in comparison with Boeing SC.

Last Tuesday, Boeing said inspections of the 787s were slowing deliveries. In today’s COVID environment, this really isn’t an issue, but it’s indicative of the underlying Boeing SC problems.

Consolidation or not?

Boeing’s CEO, David Calhoun, said on the 2Q2020 earnings call in July that a study is underway to decide whether to consolidate 787 production in one location. From a pure dollars-and-cents standpoint, it makes sense to do so. With the production rate falling to 6/mo next year, keeping two lines open is problematic.

But there are larger issues. There’s the overhead cost allocation at Everett assigned to the 787 line. The remaining 747, 767/KC-46A and 777 lines must absorb these costs. The 747 line closes in 2022 and the 777-X won’t deliver until the same year. The 777 line is going to a rate of just 2/mo. Reallocating costs from the 787 line (and the closing 747 line) to the 767/777 lines will likely put the entire Everett plant into a loss-making position. (Boeing warned in its 2Q quarterly filing declining production rates could put the 777X and 787 into a forward loss position.)

Keeping customers happy with high quality airplanes upon delivery is important, and Boeing SC falls short on this.

Finally, keeping Puget Sound’s supply chain healthy (or at least in survival mode) is also important.

Boeing SC proved over and over and over again that it’s not up to the task of having full responsibility for the 787 program.

For the long-term health of the program—and the company—splitting assembly between the two sites makes the most sense, despite short-term losses.

64 Comments on “Pontifications: Boeing SC makes its case for 787 production consolidation—and it favors Everett

  1. Given the worrying and ongoing issues coming out of Charleston and the low level of production wouldn’t it make sense to push all the production back to Seattle with the exception of the occasional 10. So effectively mothball the Charleston plant for the medium term. would it be possible to push back or bring the relatively low number of 10s in the production plan to make this possible. Simply there is flexibility of production given the anaemic demand.

    • Work out the shipping of the parts so that the -10 can be assembled in Everett.

      There is more than one way to skin a cat and Boeing wanted Charleston bias so that is the direction they went.

    • Youre kind of wrong. You cant blame the -10 on charleston. Of course a union is going to pick a scab to keep its cash flo. Do you even know what the issue was with the -10?

      • I didn’t even suggest there was anything wrong regarding the 10, you are putting words in my mouth. I was simply looking for a way around dealing with the 10 being solely manufactured in Charleston if a particular course of action was taken. But now we are in this space please share your two pence worth

  2. How come Airbus is able to manage production facilities in 7 countries worldwide, and FAL in 5 of those, without the infamous quality difference that Boeing is experiencing between Charleston and Everett?
    The only hiccup that I can recall was the mismatch in A380 software between Hamburg and Toulouse, which led to a delay in the launch of the A380…but, apart from that, the whole thing runs like clockwork.

    • Quite simple: Question is where the focus in opening new plants lies.
      The desire to drive down cost and start some sort of cost competition between the FALs wasn’t a primary driver for Airbus’ opening of the US and Chinese FALs.

      As is seen time and time again: The reason for which you do something *will* influence the result. If bean-counting (and union-busting) is at the heart of it, it will show.
      Remember SC was competing with Everett for the 2nd line in the end, so once SC was selected, you knew that from the start, it was all about numbers on PowerPoint decks and driving out unions.

      By contrast, Airbus’ US and Chinese FALs were opened mostly for political/strategic reasons. In order to create stakes in the US and China that neither policymakers nor airlines could ignore.
      Tianjin helped garner orders in a country where orders are politically decided at the top.
      Mobile was conceived for a political order – the KC-X competition – and placed thusly in the deep Republican South, where Airbus previously had little to no political support. They stuck with the site when they lost KC-X and started building A320s instead – and added the A220 as well, which conveniently also gave them a foothold during the whole sorry CSeries tariff saga (thankfully long overturned).
      Also – they may have lost KC-X but they can now credibly point to an established manufacturing presence and industrial base in the US when the next big federal procurement project comes around.

      It kind of shows that Airbus was very political from its inception and they have a lot of experience leveraging and dealing with political issues.

      • exactly.

        Airbus’s entire corporate structure is based on political considerations rather than cost.

        there is no way it is cheaper to build wings in england, tubes and high lift devices in germany, tubes and pylons in france and final assembly in alabama rather than having a fully vertically integrated plant in one location, but politically, it ensures support (in the form of tax breaks, government contracts and all kinds of infrastructure) from 4 of the G7 nations.

        in many ways, this is like the political engineering that happens in any large defense contract, where subcontractors are often selected (at least partly) by congressional district. the F-35, famously, has subcontractors in 45 of 50 states, giving it the support of 90 senators and over 300 congressional districts, guaranteeing majority support in the house.

        • No one has a “fully vertically integrated plant in one location”. No one.

          Not the 737 nor A320. Not the 767 or A330. Not the 777 or A350. Not the Embraer E1/E2 not the A220 in Montreal/
          For the 787 , the final assembly at Everett and ALL the parts come from elsewhere. For Charleston only the 2 rear fuselage sections are made in the factory next door and the rest of the plane sections arrive from elsewhere.
          So how can you make a point about Airbus having a distributed production system when thats how its done for all the western plane builders.
          Even the distance from Wichita to Renton for the 737 fuselages is likely greater that the A320 sections within Europe (1800 miles or 2900km)

        • but Bilbo no one has a fully integrated plant in a single place. i agree that there are inherent inefficiencies in the geographical locations but the very act of moving stuff around required a deeper understanding of how aircraft could be made at the time, including pre-stuffing etc.

          Looking at Boeing there are similar geographical issues in terms of a lot of its production.

          • There is a difference of shipping standard goods fitting into a container from the mnaufacturer to the FAL vs. large fuselage/wing sections especially after you have started to fill them up with expensive parts costing you interest.

        • It not only was a political question: All those european countries have a history in building planes. Sure it was politics to include those locations, but skills and knowledge was distributed all over Europe before Airbus started. Factories, universities, trained workers and more were present in a lot of small companies and locations, many of them now a part of Airbus or a supplier.

          The distribution of locations allows to pick raisins in an continent, where people and their skills do not move as easy as in the US. This has changed with the growing together of the EU. But: If you wanted the best of all worlds to compete with the US, you had to be present in all worlds. This is still in the DNA of Airbus, although the economic pressure by Boeing has weakened it.

        • Despite what it says I know of no Alaska supplier in the system.

          I suspect a liberal use of the term supplier, there are two squadrons station up here.

          Alaska has no industry of F-35 type (some bush planes used to be made up here).

          • it says 60 jobs for Alaska and $5.4M, so they probably found a native alaskan owned small manufacturing company to produce a mounting bracket for the pilot’s coffee holder.

            that way they get the small minority owned business credit on top of the unwavering support of Alaska’s congressional delegation.

          • bilbo:

            A gentle correction, as its now well known on these sort of terms.

            Alaskan Native: Indigenous People

            Native Alaskan: Somewhat anomalous, either refers to any non Alaskan Native born up here, a permanent Alaska residence, sometimes also taken to be I have been here almost all my life.

            The Alaska Native Corporations getting government contracts would be the one you are referring to (lot of deep political aspect to that as most of the Corporation are now pass through for huge Federal bucks)

            It may well be true but to the best of my knowledge, if such a connection exists the part is made in the lower 48 someplace by one of the bizarre associations involved (reality is that things like Radar Techs do not exist in the whole Alaskan population let alone the Alaskan Native groups but huge support contracts as well as other very high and low tech awarded on the basis of a minority contract advantage)

    • I think long term increasing dollar content to stabilize exchange rate $-E rates a bit was also a big consideration.

  3. Question:
    How does quality “fallout” compare between Boeing Charleston and Airbus Mobile ?
    What is known publicly?

    • Airbus can pull experienced ST Aerospace Mobile MRO staff to its FAL…
      That was perhaps part of the equation when they looked at an East Coast sea port close to a suitable airfield with willing politicians to give them some benefits.

      • Looking at auto manufacturers: there strife between management and workforce is a failure in (US style) management thing.
        Foreign manufacturers just don’t have those issues.

  4. Seems a bit of a cold war between SC and Washington.

    What everybody avoids discussing: workforce age, costs.

    Washington skills, capabilities might be less unique than hoped.

    Like we hoped the Chinese couldn’t do it, we proved wrong.

  5. The US Goverment indirect cost allocation formulas for defence programs can work against Seattle by allowing Boeing a much higher indirect cost billing for all military Aircrafts made in the Seattle area. But if FAL in S.C. closes maybe the 787-10 fuselages can be delivered by blimp to Seattle avioding any bullet holes the 737’s endure on their train ride thru the Wild West on their way to the Pacific. This would make Boeing the launch Customer for the UK Airlander.

    • The 787-10 is only assembled in Charleston. The reason is that the 747-dreamlifter is to small for the 787-10 center section. Maybe Boeing could buy a Beluga from Airbus, and then cut the Charleston FAL? 🙂

      Airbus used Boeing aircraft to transport fuselage parts before they developed the first generation Belugas.

      • I like that Boeing would operate a small fleet of Airbus Belugas, but Airlander needs Boeing more and it would look more amazing with one giant airship holding 2-4 fuselage sections under its belly.

      • The ‘centre section’ in question is assembled in Charleston from smaller sections delivered from Japan and Italy and mated with a rear section made in Charleston.

        • Yes. the issue at Charleston is that the -10 tooling exists there. If that tooling was at Everett, the mid-section individual parts could be transported and assembled there instead. So the transport is not the limiting factor as much as the investment in tooling.

          • That could be the answer to solve both the poor assembly at Charleston and keeping some work at Everett .
            Move the tooling that Charleston uses to join the ‘extended centre section’ to Everett ( plus the tail cone and bulkhead to barrel section) but keep only one final assembly line at Charleston.
            Take away the complicated work from Charleston and that leaves more workers to concentrate on just final assembly ( they have been moving fuselages out of the FAL and back again with travelled work).

            I have a feeling this is the best win win option.

    • Interesting re comment about bullet holes. In the early 1960’s, Boeing was a major contractor on the Minuteman missile. One consideration of the basing was the Mobile Minuteman. The concept was to put missiles and launch system and crews on special purpose railcars and move them from presurveyed sites to other sites on a random basis, thus preventing the baddies from targeting, etc. So a lot of data on rail cars traveling around-thru the midwest was gathered, and a dummy missile car(s) and military crews were put together for a few months ‘ exercise ‘ and moved around to various sidings. One discovery was the significant amount of bullet holes /marks found in many railroad freight cars ( 22 thru 30 cal)
      So the missile car and launch car would have to be armoured. Then a test was run on a dummy 3rd stage loaded with real planned propellant. and a 50 cal rifle was used a ways from the blast pad. The result was spectacular, several blast gages and high speed cameras wound up being sacrificed or overloaded. The Rail project was dropped..

      Times havenet changed ..

  6. I agree Boeing would be best served to keep both lines open for now. Closing Everett is not really feasible with quality control issues prevalent at Charleston. Closing Charleston would be expensive in terms of moving tooling and potential transportation costs for the -10. Best to use the opportunity to solve the quality control problems at both facilities.

    • The whole point of this article is that it needn’t be a binary choice, and that is also Scott’s conclusion and recommendation. The option to keep both open is a viable alternative. I’m sure Boeing is considering it along with the others.

  7. “Everett’s workers are unionized by the International Association of Machinists District 751, but this isn’t a union story. ” “Employee turnover at Charleston historically is higher than desired, which hurts QC.”

    You get what you pay for. Not too many guys walk away from a union job in this day and age… Remember, the Boeing cabal that chose the South over the Northwest are the same dudes that developed MCAS and so forth.

    • I think the dudes that came up with MCAS, pushed tested & approved it, weren’t really from South Carolina or Chicago.. Sorry, to hit those, you won’t have to take a flight.

    • I’ve never seen a more rabid group of employees so supportive of the union as I’ve seen with Boeing in Washington state. The union is solely there to protect f@ckup employees because with 30,000+ employees paying the IAM751 $82.00 a month, that’s a lot of money they’re making every month. So of course they’re going to go out of their way to protect them and in turn, those moronic employees are going to be happy to walk the picket lines come 2024. As the union is famous for bleating out: MAKE SURE TO SAVE FOR YOUR UNION STRIKE FUND!

      Boeing would be better off moving the entire 787 line to South Carolina and let them focus on making the aircraft better.

      • Boeing has been doing that in SC…hasnt worked.
        The data from 2019 showed the average assembly time per 787 in Everett was around 17 days.
        Average time in Charleston was more like 22 and when a single plane made 19 days there were high fives all around.
        Slow rate and poor quality, Everett isnt a place on Mars for Boeing to know how to do it right.
        Low wage non unionised work force just cant cut it when overheads are high and delays costly. The big car companies worked that out years ago ..

      • only $82/mo? hell, steamfitters in NYC pay $65/Hr to the union (pension, health, union dues)…. their “work package” is ~$120/hr but after the union deductions it ends up under $55/hr..

        that sounds like a lot, but $110k a year (if you manage to work the whole year, there are a lot of short jobs with gaps to the next one) in NYC ain’t exactly breaking the bank.

        • Yep, that $65/hour to the union for pension, health, dues in NYC sure sounds outrageous & horrible – until inconvenient truths, facts & reality (aka life in the REAL WORLD instead of Faux News & right wing fantasyland) rears its head for those who work in offices & other occupations (including construction) that aren’t unionized.

          For example, many without unions in NYC often have:

          – ZERO – and I mean ZERO (as in ZILCH, ZIPPO) – matching contributions by their employer towards a 401-K

          – ZERO (as in ZILCH, ZIPPO) paid by their employer for health insurance, especially for those who work for companies <50 employees. For singles who max out of ACA subsidies, “low cost” plans with high deductibles, monthly premiums $500+. And again, that’s for the plans with huge deductibles.

          Half decent plans with lower/more modest deductibles cost more per month, with plans that have the lowest total deductibles, now more than $700/month this year, and already scheduled to exceed $800/month next year.

          As noted, that’s for just 1-person.

          For couples, cost for above DOUBLES, while a family of 4 is, well, practically unaffordable if they don’t qualify for ACA subsidies especially in NYC with high costs for housing, utilities, etc.

          So, to recap in the above example:

          While those unionized Steamfitters “lose” (according to @bilbo) $65/hour to unions (or their employers are “stuck”/“burdened” paying $65/hour “union tax” – that gets passed on to end users anyway in the form of higher rents [and other fees for commercial leases]) & “only” get $55/hour on their pay checks (those “poor dears”) while their employers (many of which are already exceptionally wealthy & enjoying the good life in pricey homes located in the best zip codes in the NY Metro area) get “shafted”/“screwed”/“taken to the cleaners”, etc., for another $65/hour, they also happen to have actual benefits that for many New Yorkers are but a distant dream they’ll never have no matter how long & hard they toil for their employer.

          Yep, NO PENSION & health insurance that already is fast approaching $700-$1k/month, plus deductibles, for a single person, let alone DOUBLE that for couples, and of course, the eye-popping, jaw dropping THOUSANDS for families.

          Oh, did I forget to mention, NO DISABILITY insurance; NO LIFE insurance; bare minimums for sick days & vacation days; being classified as “management” to evade overtime costs even if one isn’t a manager.

          I could go on and on about what so many employees are forced to forgo/“go without” who don’t have unions negotiating contracts on their behalf.

          That’s NOT to say unions are perfect, or Saints/Saviors that protect the common man/woman from evil, greedy, parasitic employers as for sure there’s more than enough grifting & pocket picking at some unions.

          Or that “featherbedding” isn’t an huge & costly/extraordinarily wasteful problem (see for example 2nd Ave subway; Long Island Railroad Grand Central Terminal extension.

          Or especially those pension plans, which sometimes can be as badly abused as a slush fund by union leaders & “Trustees” (or of course, other “malefactors”) as they can be by employers who raid pension plans before going bankrupt & leaving their employees in the lurch.

          However, to portray those “poor saps” as getting nothing for the $65/hour cost cited in the example is flat out false when compared to a great many New Yorkers who get nothing for pensions/health insurance/disability insurance/life insurance (etc.) and bare minimum, next to nothing for everything else, including raises so small & paltry they’re laughable (if they’re lucky, that is) and are told that if they don’t like it, that the “door’s over there…”

          • Addendum to above comments:

            At the link below, is a single page (in PDF) summarizing the breakdown for NYC’s Unionized Steamfitters for the period Dec 27 2017 thru Jun 26 2018 (data for more recent periods were buried deep inside 70+ pages contracts, so for the sake of ease & brevity, the period for 1H’2018 was selected instead):


            Also included with this follow-up post is a link to the NYC Steamfitters’ Union (local 638) May, 2019 DEFINED BENEFIT (DB) Pension Plan (in PDF):


            As most know all too well, Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plans long ago disappeared for America’s middle & working class families, and were replaced by far skimpier 401-K plans that may or may NOT include some employer matching participation.

            Needless to say, those with DB Pension Plans usually have far superior pensions than those who were shunted/fobbed off into 401-K Defined Contribution (DC) Plans, and told to fend for themselves.

            And while the attitude is this is fair & just because it places the responsibility on individuals to plan wisely for their retirements, it overlooks the fact that NOT everyone is going to be familiar with managing their investments nearly as capably as affluent professionals who understand the vast universe of mutual funds, and which ones are best to invest with to build their retirement nest eggs (managers’ performance; types of funds & what/where they invest; *FEES* [especially fees], etc.); the “wonderful world of annuities”; or of course, how to pick & choose investments for individual brokerage accounts for the more fortunate among us, as there are a great many who did NOT grow up in homes that kept CNBC and its ticker tape chyron at the bottom of the screen on all day – or of course, on tv’s found scattered about the “19th Hole” at Private Country Clubs throughout the land!

            Anyhow, most of us can only dream of ever having a pension fund as robust as “Old School” Defined Benefit (DB) Plans as NYC’s Steamfitters have!

            And again, this is NOT to say all is “Rainbows & Unicorns” (perfect) for those who belong to unions, or that their pension plans aren’t abused by leaders & Trustees as for sure anywhere there’s big pots of gold, so too, are thieves & predators lurking & all too happy to help themselves if they think they can get away with it.

            So, I just want to be clear that there’s risk of egregious abuses – or that some grift is already “baked in” to the cost paid by the unionized workers, their employers, but ultimately, end users (basically all/most of us!) in NYC as that costly problem has long proven to be difficult to completely eliminate even by the most zealous/ambitious SDNY prosecutors!

  8. Yes, two locations seems like the prudent decision for now. South Carolina should only build the -10. Wait a few years and make a new plan.

  9. Failures like we are seeing don’t occur in a vacuum.

    A failure of quality can be the equipment, the person doing the work (easily 6 reasons from I don’t care to not a clue)

    Quality control is not a single model, its any method that ensure the end product is per specification (within tolerance).

    There are a whole suite of methods to ensure that.

    Its Boeing culture that is broke and Charleston was build in Boeing’s eye, not the eye of history of the Unions in Washington State.

    Boeing deliberate action in undermining the inspection process and was put into Charleston DNA workforce.

    Underling this, its not something went out of specification, it happens, its that it went out from specification and no one had a clue it was occurring (or if you raise your hand you get fired).

    Boeing has done its level best to neuter the FAA (successfully) and has been attacking its own internal quality control. If its doing fine we don’t need no stinking quality control.

    The Union fights on, the cowering work force in Charleston has no protections so you see the worst of it there.

    I found this last to be representative and astounding in light of Boeing has supposedly taken accountability of the MAX mess.


    Still in denial and hiding behind words that are twisted to sound like they are saints. But then you do not want to fact the heavy hand of the juggernaut.

      • There is nothing really new in these articles. They are consistent with what was reported by the Inspector General, as well as the FAA summary on the AD. Boeing relied excessively on the pilots’ existing training for stabilizer malfunctions, as a remediation of potential MCAS issues. This was viewed as an adequate safeguard, when it wasn’t. It was also done when the authority of MCAS was initially limited.

        This was proven to be an incorrect assumption, both in the accidents and the subsequent pilot testing. Thus Boeing reversed it’s position on pilot training, which will now occur with input from industry & safety experts.

        Additionally the FAA has worked to diminish the assumptions of pilot responsiveness that Boeing used, in the procedures for dealing with abnormal conditions on the MAX. Those have been reviewed to ensure they don’t rely on expectations that are not representative of average pilot responsiveness, based on the testing that was done.

        Boeing has acknowledged fault in the MCAS flaws, and worked to address them. They have acknowledged fault in the incorrect pilot assumptions, and endorsed additional pilot training, which they will also partially fund. They worked for a year to remove a remote possibility that would rely excessively on pilot response time. They’ve said they are implementing those changes for future aircraft as well. So the conclusion that nothing has changed and there has been no progress, is not valid.

        Especially the accusations of deliberate intent. Those lack evidence, as has been proven in the Mark Forkner case as well. When the DOJ asked for his proof, his lawyer said his statements were exaggerations, that he was blowing off steam, and not making factual statements. He refused to cooperate with the investigation, because he had created legal liability for himself by mouthing off. I suspect some people here would be in the same boat, if the DOJ came knocking on their door.

        Yet there are still people here who are referencing Forkner. Also still criticizing Bjorn for his position on the MAX, when both his factual and predictive records are exemplary, and far exceed that of his critics here. As we saw throughout the MAX debacle, many dire predictions were made here, but few have come to fruition. Bjorn was not involved in any of that, but his critics were.

        One might think that people would learn from this, and propose what they think the problems & solutions could or might be, without making affirmative derogatory statements that are later proven wrong. But that is probably another excessive expectation.

        Many of the statements made here are unsubstantiated opinion. They don’t represent the majority viewpoints of regulators or the airlines, who are moving ahead with RTS for the MAX, and are investigating the 787 quality issues. It’s fine to express opinion, but not in the context of fact.

        Or to attempt to denigrate others who disagree. Unsurprisingly, it’s the same small group referenced above, who engage in that behavior as well (my apologies to the majority of you, who don’t feel the need to do this).

        The problems with Boeing quality control are shared between management and workers. Both play a role and both will need to improve. It’s naïve and foolish to solely blame one side or the other, just as it was in the MAX accidents. Responsibility is shared, and as such, represents a cultural issue. I have no doubt that the FAA will be looking into all these sources. If they find wrongdoing, they will act on it.

        The role of inspectors will also need to be examined, as well as Boeing’s effort to substitute digital tool monitoring for physical inspections. It seems clear that has not been beneficial. That outcome was predicted by the inspectors and so is a valid initial point of investigation, and I’m sure will be a priority for the FAA. But we need to see the results and response of the FAA before reaching firm conclusions. None of us know what happened, or have evidence of it. How many times have we learned that lesson?

    • Exactly right. I think comparisons to a320 FALs are a bit apples to oranges but the fact remains that quality is a system, if it’s broken you’re only hoping to catch defects before the final customer delivery. It should be a priority in this reduced demand period to comb through every defect for a proper RCCA and implement real process changes to prevent defects. The reality is that Boeing can’t possibly stay completely consolidated in Seattle, that’s way too much business risk. If they can’t get Charleston running right they can forget opening anywhere else either.

  10. …and then let’s see how many airlines will continue to order/take the -10, knowing that it’s exclusively made in FOD-ville.

  11. Was this efficiency innitiative realized last year?


    See the photo:
    “Ernesto Gonzalez-Beltran, VP of Quality at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, left, looks on as mechanic Ken Zabel uses a Bluetooth-enabled device to measure gaps between sections at the wing-to-body join on a Boeing 787.”

    It would reduce inspectors jobs by 900, according to the Union..

    • The idea is basically good. If you have data-enabled tools, then you have both an audit trail of the work, and a real-time alert to the worker about work quality. The theory is that quality issues are addressed on the first pass, during the initial work, thus reducing the need for physical inspection or rework. Inspections are not eliminated, there are still major approval stages, but intermediate inspections are reduced.

      Obviously these benefits have not been realized. Why that is, we don’t yet know. In at least one case, the quality alert was defeated. Defeating the system is certainly possible, but technical problems could also exist.

      I’ve written Bluetooth & WiFi warehouse database systems, there are connection issues, interference and dropouts that can impact reliability. One of the challenges there is worker acceptance, adaptation, and feedback.

      A few dropped signals and they may dump the electronic tools for more familiar methods. I’ve seen that more than once, when people are frustrated. Some electronic tools are one-directional, the worker doesn’t know if the data are received and processed. The better tools will provide worker feedback, but that may take a second or so.

      Other questions are why the captured inspection data was not reviewed, and why the major stage inspections didn’t catch the flaws.

      Criticism from the professional inspectors was that the data captured by the tools don’t adequately characterize quality. So that is a major possibility.

      Criticism from some engineers and workers is that they aren’t allowed time on the line to address quality issues. That too is a possibility, although it runs counter to the goal of reducing rework. It would be expected that a small increase in line time would be required for a larger savings in rework. But this too needs to be considered.

      My guess is that it will be a combination of these things, with management and labor both playing a role.

      • “” Inspections are not eliminated, there are still major approval stages, but intermediate inspections are reduced.
        Obviously these benefits have not been realized. Why that is, we don’t yet know.””


        this is an example of Rob’s daily propaganda. How can an outsider come up with this stuff, I’m sure everybody gets the impression Rob is an insider and he is using the form “WE”.
        He also can’t mean us here in this blog because I’m not interested in these Boeing’s benefits.

        Please let me know what you think so we have a better understanding.


        • @Leon–and everyone else–

          I have no issue with people debating positions or facts (as they see them), as long as there are no insults, accusations, name-calling, etc. You can make your point by saying something like, “I disagree and here’s why…” without the other stuff.

          I know where Rob works and it’s not Boeing.

        • @ Leon

          Why don’t you just ignore people who vex you?
          Let them do their thing, and pay no attention to it.
          You can discuss your points with others who do not vex you…or they can similarly choose to ignore you if that’s what they wish.
          Scott is kind enough to provide a forum for us here, so that we can make our points…but that doesn’t come with an obligation to engage in endless/pointless discourse with others. Some peoples’ posts are so long/convoluted that they’re sleep-inducing even before the first paragraph is finished…but you can just read something else instead.
          No matter what you post (anywhere), there’ll always be people who agree with you and also those who disagree with you.
          There’s no point in getting into a tizzy about it.

        • Leon, it’s not propaganda, it’s a compendium of reporting on Boeing’s efforts to implement data-enabled tooling, to reduce inspections and improve quality. It was widely reported at the time, along with the criticisms, and the information is freely available on line.

          A major difference between you and I, Leon, is that when I read something that makes no sense to me, I look it up, because there is a strong possibility the problem is on my end. I don’t assume the problem is with the writer until I convince myself that it’s not with me first.

          For more on this, you can look up Kruger-Dunning theory. A person’s awareness that they might be wrong, correlates to their general accuracy in being right, because they constantly check and verify. Similarly, lack of awareness creates confidence in accuracy that leads to errors.

          The “we” thing is some strange perception you have, possibly because of language differences. In the teaching world, the expression “we know” is meant to convey general knowledge, in the personal voice. You could also say “it’s known” in the passive voice, but using “we” involves the students and is a good practice to encourage class participation. Something a very experienced & excellent teacher taught me long ago.

  12. If BCA and Boeing leadership remains and is half hearted about problems, despite the repeated QC/FOD failings on the 787, 737 and 767 (why haven’t we heard of any comparable issues with 777 and 747?) lines, what motivation is there for the incompetents (or whatever) who actually make the stuff or supervise the making of it or manage the supervisors etc to improve? Responsibility and consequences must be clear and seen to be clear.

    Meantime, what impact does the lack of unionisation at SC have on BCA’s ability to second WA employees to SC to sort the mess out? Would employees pe personally unwilling? Would they be personally willing but the union blocks it? Something else?

  13. The thing about it is simply this…I offered my resignation 1/3/20 in Charleston after 8 years…
    1)The guy that managed my area graduated from FSU and was a Supervisor for a commercial concrete outfit.
    2)If a person can score on aptitude they have a job at Boeing SC, 70 percent of BSC’s employees had NO aerospace history…
    3) It’s cheaper to work 2~60 Hrs a week,then the 3~40Hrs a week…
    4)Everything in the press about The Boeing Co is true, They are no longer an engineering endeavor…IT IS ALL ABOUT SHARE HOLDER VALUE and has been since 2006

    • Thanks for that candid assessment, Keith.
      You now run the risk of incurring the wrath of the Borg collective, which is represented here by a particularly industrious drone. He gets paid per word. Be forewarned.

      • To be clear, Keith is not the problem here, Bryce. He expressed his opinion based on his experience, and gave his reasons. His view is not the majority view but it’s fine to express it as a dissenting opinion. Dissent is valuable as it provides a counterpoint and another perspective. I welcome that, but please note that he did not need to insult anyone or use derisive language to do so. As is true of all but a few people here.

        You keep implying that the issue is to have an opinion against Boeing, but clearly that’s not it at all. Even I have opinions against Boeing. Many people here have similar opinions, but again they express them in a reasonable way. You, and a few others here, create the problem by the use of insulting language when it isn’t needed or warranted, and has little to do with the quality of your argument.

        Keith’s argument is strengthened by the evident lack of his hatred for Boeing. He’s upset about what he sees as a degradation of the company. That is something we can all relate to. The same would be true for your arguments, if you used the same methods of presentation..

  14. There is a pivotal question that should be known before taking a firm stand on this question: how much does is cost to assamble a 787 in Everett and how much does it in SC?
    If the difference is small, lets say between 1-4%, than the decision of one site or another has to take other considerations. If its big, lets say more than 10%, than the cheapest site has a strong argument.

  15. Sometimes comments amuse me.
    Why should Boeing consolidate its production at the more expensive factory with the strong union, while they have another plant producing cheaper and all 3 versions of the family and doesn’t have any union at all?
    The product quality doesn’t have played a role in Boeings decisions so far, why should it now?
    If they want to consolidate at one plant, it will be the one in Charleston, no matter what.
    Cheaper, no union, can build all versions.
    Might discipline the union in Washington.

    They either keep it this way, or they shut down the Everett plant.

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