Boeing has reached its 2013 goal of assembling the 787s at a rate of 10 per month which is split between Everett and Charleston 8 to 2. Guidance given by Boeing last year indicated that when they have reached this rate that the production would be split 7 to 3. It was a surprise to everyone when it was revealed by Charleston based Boeing executives a few months ago that Charleston rate is at 1.5 and that they wouldn’t reach the 3 per month rate until sometime in the first quarter of 2014.
People started to question why that was and many observers claimed that it was because the skill set and experience of manufacturing technicians (MT) at Charleston were not at the level of those at Everett. Certainly the new MTs at Charleston had a learning curve to climb but can they be blamed for the lower rate of output at Boeing Charleston?
All things being equal the MTs have the same basic skill set as those at Everett. Where everything is not equal is the amount of experience the Charleston MTs have vs. those in Everett. Certainly with time the Charleston MTs will be just as skillful at putting together the 787s as those in Everett.
For one thing Charleston only works two shifts on one assembly line while Everett work three full shifts on two lines. Additionally Boeing is limiting the amount of overtime that the Charleston MTs work while there isn’t any known restrictions to the Everett workforce.
They also have very demanding customers who are observing every facet of assembly of their aircraft like Qatar Airways. To top it all off, there are about 3 to 5 QT’s (Quality Technicians) to sign off on the work that was done per the FAA’s PC-700 production certificate. MT’s have to wait sometimes up to 2 hours for a QT to inspect and sign off on the work that was performed. Sometimes the Charleston workers have to hunt, scrounge for or have one of the shop workers fashion the appropriate tool in order to get a particular job completed to spec and to customer satisfaction.
In time, the Charleston line will be producing and delivering the three aircraft per month that is expected and I don’t doubt that when Boeing goes to 14 per month, the additional 4 airplanes will be coming from Charleston. However I feel that people are unjustly criticizing the SC plant and in particular, are being unfair to the techs that are building the 787s.