Boeing’s 737 production increase to mean about 1,200 new jobs in Renton

Boeing will add roughly 1,200 new jobs at its 737 plant in Renton over the next two years to handle the record-breaking production of the world's most popular airplane.

Boeing will add roughly 1,200 new jobs at its 737 plant in Renton over the next two years to handle the record-breaking production of the world’s most popular airplane.

The production rampup includes construction of a two-story, 75,000-square-foot building that will house equipment purchased directly by a Boeing airplane customer and make production more efficient.
The building is working its way through the Renton review process.

“We are working very closely with The Boeing Co. to ensure its ramp up of production of the 737 is seamless,” said Mayor Denis Law. “Coupled with Boeing’s signing of a 20-year lease agreement for Renton Municipal Airport, we view these capital improvements as additional signals that Renton will continue to be a center of commercial airplane manufacturing for many years to come.”

The jobs will span all facets of the 737 workforce, from engineering to support to production, said Liz Verdier, a company spokeswoman at the 737 plant. Boeing will add roughly 600 workers during each of the two production increases.

Boeing doesn’t release specific employee numbers at its plant, but its Renton workforce is estimated at 8,000 to 9,000 workers, including support staff.

The region got a big employment boost last week, thanks to Boeing, when the U.S. Air Force awarded the aerospace company the $35 billion contract to build a new fleet of air-refueling tankers using the 767. That contract will secure thousands of direct and indirect Boeing jobs in the Puget Sound region.

The rampup in 737 production is a bright spot in Renton’s overall economic outlook. Every Boeing job at the 737 plant generally supports 1.7 jobs in the community. That number has been described as conservative, however.

“The Boeing Co. is a powerful engine in our economy and is responsible for creating thousands of jobs, attracting other companies and economic opportunities to Renton,” said Bill Taylor, president of the Renton Chamber of Commerce.

City officials point out that a 2008 Deloitte study indicated that Boeing’s operations in Renton account for nearly $7 billion (2.7 percent) of Washington’s gross state product, 10.7 percent of the state’s exports and more than 45,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Boeing increased 737 production to 31.5 planes a month last year, a record rate. Then, later in the year it announced a production rate of 35 737s a month beginning in January 2012 and to 38 a month in the second quarter of 2013.

The 737 is built on two moving assembly lines at the plant.

The production increases are made with “deliberate planning,” said Verdier, the Boeing spokeswoman, to avoid “significant” drops that can occur if rates were increased too fast and too high.
“We have learned a measured approach,” she said.

At the same time, she said, “we are making sure we’re meeting market requirements.”
Boeing has a backlog of 2,164 737s on order.

Mayor Law points out that more than 40 percent of the jetliners in the air worldwide today took their first flight from Renton Municipal Airport. “We will do everything we can to ensure Boeing’s continued success,” he said.

The new warehouse will be built on an empty parking lot off Logan Avenue North now used by second-shift workers at the plant, according to the City of Renton.

Construction will begin in the next few weeks and finish by year’s end, said Vicki Ray, a Boeing spokeswoman.

The company will receive and then stage such equipment as seats and galleys until needed in the final assembly buildings, said Ray.

This is a good example of a Boeing Lean practice the company has implemented in recent years to improve efficiency, Ray said.

“You do as much work as you can off the assembly line and have parts arrive just in time for installation,” she said.

Boeing also would place two 2,900-square-foot seal booths within the Boeing 4-20 building, demolishing the existing seal booth when the new ones are completed, according to the city.

“The expansion is one of many steps we’re taking to prepare for increased 737 production rates,” said Ray.