Boeing (NYSE:BA) is studying every possibility for manufacturing new 777x planes at a former boat factory in Washington and is working on a system that may involve full automation in engine builds, according to a report by The Seattle Times. It may prove the difference between outsourcing manufacturing work to Japan or keeping the construction and assembly of wide-body jets in and around Everett, the site of many Boeing operations.
Boeing reps did not comment to the Times when asked about the operations in Anacorte, Washington, just off Fidalgo Bay. However, unnamed Boeing engineers did open up to the news outlet when the topic of machine-controlled manufacturing came up.
“We’ve going to introduce a whole lot of automation,” the engineer told the Times, discussing the construction of the fuselage and how it would change. Local residents are awaiting news of how Boeing will construct the different elements of the 777x, as many jobs rest on the company’s decision to stay local or scrap the concept and have the fuselage built in Japan.
While keeping production of the 777x in Washington would be a boost for employment in the region, the question of automation — and how much of it — would complicate the matter. As the Times reported in May, the use of robots is increasing in company operations.
Boeing is using robots to paint wings on its 777 jets, part of a surge in automation practices that can save the company time and money. However, the inspection, operation, and final safety compliance has to be managed in order for automated practices to catch on in larger production slates. As Boeing learned with its disastrous Dreamliner launch, hustling aircraft into service has potential to damage the company down the road.
The 777X program is expected to begin in the coming months, by which time Boeing will have settled whether the Fidalgo Bay location, Japan, or another spot in Washington state will be the site of manufacturing. The company has plenty of regulatory favor in the area, as government officials are set to welcome the company’s new manufacturing projects with open arms.
According to the Seattle Times, Governor Jay Inslee has offered incentives in the way of prioritizing the company’s permit applications and regulatory requirements in general.