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Old 12-21-2012, 03:24 PM   #1
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Boeing expansion in South Carolina

It was announced recently in the local media here in Washington that Boeing is aquiring more land around its Charleston 787 production facility for expansion of that facility.

I assume all this means is that we are excercising the options we've had on the land around the facility for several years now. This area is sufficient to double if not triple the manufacturing and assembly capabilities that are there now.

I was just told by one of our cameramen who was there the other month that much of the huge employee parking lot adjacent to the new 787 assembly buidling is being ripped up, apparently in preparation for more building activity.

It certainly jibes with what we have heard are the long-range plans for the company's operations in that state.
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:45 AM   #2
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Boeing is expanding commercial operations across the board. I'm glad to hear Charleston is ramping up.

I always thought we dropped the ball by not doing the same in Wichita. It's good to see the company investing in states though. Texas and Oklahoma are seeing benefit as well.
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Old 12-22-2012, 10:14 AM   #3
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Regarding Wichita - Boeing desires (and others) to build new plants in a friendly labor climate. Cessna's labor problems and outsourcing battles with their KS unions may have played a part in bypassing Wichita.
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Old 12-22-2012, 10:18 AM   #4
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Completely agree. Labor unions cost Kansas a great deal through all of that.

I'm glad to see us expanding in the US. As a shareholder and Washington resident, I have no problem with it at all. A healthy Boeing is good for all of us. My retirement depends on it.
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Old 12-23-2012, 04:13 AM   #5
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Regarding Wichita - Boeing desires (and others) to build new plants in a friendly labor climate. Cessna's labor problems and outsourcing battles with their KS unions may have played a part in bypassing Wichita.
The main reason we pulled out of Wichita is that the work there had dwindled to a trickle compared to years past. And there were other, sometimes newer facilities that were capable of doing the same work, or in some instances were doing the same work in addition to other work. So it made sense to consolidate the work still being done in Wichita into these other sites.

One example of this is the new tanker program. The planes themselves are being built in Everett so it made more sense to do the bulk of the program there instead of half of it in Everett and half in Wichita with the associated duplication of some functions and positions made necessary simply by the split locations.
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Old 12-23-2012, 10:32 AM   #6
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One example of this is the new tanker program. The planes themselves are being built in Everett so it made more sense to do the bulk of the program there instead of half of it in Everett and half in Wichita with the associated duplication of some functions and positions made necessary simply by the split locations.
That was driven by an engineering design change to reduce cost. The decision to turn the 767 line around and redesign the entire section 47/48 to accommodate a less costly pressure bulkhead was huge. It also meant the plane could no longer be certified in Everett and then flown to Wichita for conversion under an STC. They shaved a LOT of engineering to get competitive, but took on a HUGE cert risk.

I was part of the team that designed and retrofitted the KC-767A for Italy and Japan. It was a much more expensive approach where the 767 was manufactured here, flown to Wichita and then hacked up and pressure bulkhead and boom installed, then flown to Italy for the conversion. It was a hot mess in the end and the Italian partner eventually went out of business (Aeronavali).

Now it's all done here under Federal Regulations (14 CFR) parts 23, 25, 27, and 29. It is treated as a military / commercial derivative aircraft (MCDA) and will no longer be transported under an experimental ticket for conversion as it had in the past.

The FAA and Boeing have a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to accomplish this. It's actually very clever. Our aircraft certification office (ACO) in Seattle and Air Force Military Certification Office (MCO) use the FAA type certification as the cert basis to then get airworthiness approval for MCDA. They'll roll out of Everett as KC-46As now.
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Old 12-23-2012, 11:51 AM   #7
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With so many companies moving to right-to-work states, where do they find the people with the technical skills to do the work?
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Old 12-23-2012, 01:32 PM   #8
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I can only comment about Boeing's experience since that's the only one I've benn experiencing first hand for some three years now.

Boeing is required by its agreements with South Carolina/Charleston to hire a proportion of its SC workforce locally. That proportion is actually fairly small. The rest of the workforce can come from anywhere. So the Charleston workforce is no different in makeup than the Everett or Renton workforce. In the Charleston plant I have met and interviewed people from everywhere and with a very diverse aerospace experience.

There are a lot of people from Washington State who have transferred down. There are a lot of very experienced people from the now defunct Space Shuttle program in Florida and Texas. But I met people from many states, all of them with a lot of experience in the aerospace industry.

A good friend of mine is now the chief production pilot on the 787 program. He is originally from South Carolina and may move his family back down there.

And Sourh Carolina itself is not devoid of high tech experience. I met a lot of people who had come to Boeing from Lockheed in SC. The big Navy yard in SC is either closed or is just a mere shaddow of its former self, and a lot of people have moved over from there.

What's new about the SC workforce is not its experience level but the fact it is a new team. And this is actually a real blessing because they are not saddled with a "we've always done it this way" mentality. So as a group they are not hampered by tradition and a huge organizational bureaucracy which for the most part, just gets in the way and slows things down.

They may reach that point eventually, but right now they are very innovative, streamlined, and efficient. And enthusiastic, an attitude that is like gold in today's manufacturing world.

BMW has a huge modern assembly plant near Columbia, SC where they make the X-3 and X-5. I interviewed the CEO of BMW South Carolina and he told me that in terms of productivity and quality the SC plant consistently outperforms BMW's other X-3/X-5 plant, which is in Germany. So any image one might have of planes and cars being made by a bunch of country hicks is totally off the mark.
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Old 12-23-2012, 02:53 PM   #9
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where do they find the people with the technical skills to do the work?
The 787 is engineered at Everett, WA. It is assembled at Charleston. Big difference in the skill sets required.

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So the Charleston workforce is no different in makeup than the Everett or Renton workforce.
As a composite, that might hold true on some levels, but the design engineering for both the -8, -9 and eventually -10 minor models are all done here.

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A good friend of mine is now the chief production pilot on the 787 program. He is originally from South Carolina and may move his family back down there.
Randy Neville? I met him briefly when we were going over our technology on the ecoDemonstrator. My project is the ONS (Onboard Network System) and the EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) on the 787, 747-8, 737 and 777. I work with Mike Carriker often as well. Neat guy.
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Old 12-23-2012, 03:20 PM   #10
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Randy Neville?
No. Chad Lundy.

Regarding the workforce, in answer to acora's question I was speaking about the manufacturing and assembly workforce, not the design engineering functions which as you say is presently concentrated in Puget Sound. Charleston has a very large number of industrial engineers, however, many of them from the Shuttle program.
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Old 12-23-2012, 05:45 PM   #11
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No. Chad Lundy.
I thought Mike Carriker moved up and Randy Neville was the Chief Test Pilot now on 787?

I have a meeting with Mike Carriker each Thursday. They're all neat guys to be around. They've got some great stories and get to do some very cool stuff. Mike is a huge proponent of our ONS and the cool things our EFB will bring to the flight station.

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I was speaking about the manufacturing and assembly workforce, not the design engineering functions which as you say is presently concentrated in Puget Sound. Charleston has a very large number of industrial engineers, however, many of them from the Shuttle program.
IE is a long reach from design engineering. Planning the build and assembly of an airplane is an IE task. Designing is a whole different beast. All design and change is managed here at Everett. I don't see that going anywhere anytime soon.

I wouldn't give up on the Puget Sound just yet and go buying a bunch of swampland in SC.
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Old 12-23-2012, 06:28 PM   #12
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I thought Mike Carriker moved up and Randy Neville was the Chief Test Pilot now on 787?

I wouldn't give up on the Puget Sound just yet and go buying a bunch of swampland in SC.

Randy may be the chief experimental flight test pilot for the 787, I don't know. Chad is the chief production pilot for the program. Two different jobs. Chad flew a lot with Mike during the later flight test phase of the 787 program and was one of the pilots who along with Mike flew the distance/speed record flight with the airplane.

While Puget Sound will be a production center for Boeing for many years to come, I think the overall future of this area is limited and will, over time, fade away much like Wichita. The focus is increasingly on South Carolina and other states, as well as overseas. The expansion planned for South Carolina (and not just Charleston) is pretty staggering in scope.

And more and more production work is being and will be shifted to partners in other countries. The 787 was a demonstration of how to do this poorly. It was not a demonstration that the concept doesn't work.
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Old 12-23-2012, 07:59 PM   #13
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While Puget Sound will be a production center for Boeing for many years to come, I think the overall future of this area is limited and will, over time, fade away much like Wichita.
I don't think that's the case at all. The Everett facility alone dwarfs anything Boeing will ever build again. There is 43,000,000 sq/ft of hangar there alone (compared to a proposed size of 102,772 sq/ft) at Charleston.

I don't doubt we'll grow in other parts of the country, but that doesn't mean we're abandoning the NW. They'll be building commercial aircraft here long after you and I are dead and gone.

We've said all along that increased backlog will drive us to move into other areas of the country. The 777-9x will likely expand here rather than anywhere else simply because of the monument tooling used on the 777 program. I do expect to see variants of the 787 down south in big numbers. The surge line running at Everett would be an easy relocate. I'd much rather see it there than China.

I'd bet the next airplane will be a variant of our blended wing body design. Something like the X-48C in form. We'll be old men before flies, and probably still not know where it'll be built.
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Old 12-23-2012, 10:19 PM   #14
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With so many companies moving to right-to-work states, where do they find the people with the technical skills to do the work?
Drug testing is a bigger problem than skill sets. When Hyundai built the plant in Mountgemery AL they went through five people before they could hire one.
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Old 12-24-2012, 01:11 AM   #15
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I don't think that's the case at all. The Everett facility alone dwarfs anything Boeing will ever build again......I bet the next airplane will be a variant of our blended wing body design. Something like the X-48C in form. We'll be old men before flies, and probably still not know where it'll be built.
That's because in the future Boeing will not need anything as large as the antiquated Everett plant.

And while never say never, we already know where the next major airplane program will be located because of the study and evaluation video and graphic work we have been doing to help make the case. This is assuming they had to make a final decision today. And as usual, the answer is nothing anyone will have seen coming.

What will actually happen won't be known until it happens. But I'm not putting any money in Everett (or Renton) real estate, but the reason is not what one might expect.

But as SomeSailor says, it's not something that's going to change overnight although it's an issue the company is extremely concerned about and is accelerating the steps necessary to deal with it.
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:42 AM   #16
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And while never say never, we already know where the next major airplane program will be located because of the study and evaluation video and graphic work we have been doing
You merely know what you see from producing a video for a trade study.

And to be truthful, if I knew anything like that as a fact, I'd probably not say anything for fear of losing my job over violation of an NDA.

It's a much bigger task in building an airplane than having a big hangar. An airplane like the 777-X has an entire infrastructure of tooling, jigs, fixtures and CNC automated drilling and composite autoclave chambers. Whatever site builds the new airplane, it'll have to accommodate that.
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Old 12-24-2012, 01:17 PM   #17
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Whatever site builds the new airplane, it'll have to accommodate that.
By then it will, no worries.

One of the advantages we have in our work is that we know what's coming LONG before most other people do. And you're correct, there is a lot--- most of it actually---- we are not allowed to discuss.

For example we knew the configuration of the new winglet for the MAX many months before it was even hinted at publicly or even within the overall company. Why? Because our organization created all the computer generated imagery and animation showing these designs on the planes and how they work, physically and aerodynamically, both video and stills. These were used to help make the case for the design.

We know who our airplane sales are to even if the customer is not announced for months or even a year or more. We produce the videos that are used to make a case for new products or technologies or manufacturing processes and equipment with executive councils, the board of directors, finance, etc., to win their approval.

If you want to know what's coming down the pike at Boeing, outside of being part of Corporate itself our organization is a fascinating place to be.
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