Moving Boeing’s 787 to South Carolina was a dozen years in the making

Pandemic was accelerant, not cause of decision to consolidate 787 final assembly to its North Charleston, S.C. plant.

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Release Date
October 7, 2020
Moving Boeing’s 787 to South Carolina was a dozen years in the making
Was this always the plan?

“It was,” according to a retired senior Boeing executive who was directly involved in the original second 787 Dreamliner final assembly line selection in 2009. “I’m not sure we ever put it on a chart,” but the expectation was that eventually “we’ll need the real estate” in Everett, Wash. for the 777X or for the now-defunct New Mid-Market Airplane.

Read: Boeing’s long and inevitable road to South Carolina

Before Boeing’s 787, assembling twin-aisle aircraft in two different factories had never been done before — and for good reason. While benefiting from duplicate lines to surge production to record levels during the jet’s first decade in production, Boeing created an inherent inefficiency when it decided to open the duplicate nonunion North Charleston line in October 2009. The pandemic in 2020 was used to solve that inefficiency.

Read: The uncertain future for Boeing’s twin 787 assembly lines in Washington and South Carolina

The company, citing the pandemic as the chief driver of its decision to close its original Everett 787 line next year, officially informed its workforce early Thursday last week in an email and video message from Stan Deal, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive. Boeing gains industrial efficiencies by having 787 final assembly under one, very large, roof in North Charleston. Yet, the decision by Boeing to consolidate production in South Carolina ultimately had little to do with COVID-19 and the historic collapse in jetliner demand. The pandemic was the accelerant, not the cause.

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