Boeing Co. is adding more contractors at its North Charleston 787 assembly plant, acknowledging unspecified "challenges" as it prepares to make a new, longer version of the Dreamliner.
The aerospace giant issued a statement Wednesday after The Wall Street Journal reported that the plant could hire as many as 1,000 temporary workers in South Carolina to speed up the completion of the mid-body fuselage sections that are outfitted at the local factory.
Boeing's statement did not address any production issues and didn't elaborate about how many contractors it might hire.
"The 787 production system is ramping up to historically high rates for a wide-body program and introducing a second family member, the 787-9," the company said. "It's not unexpected that this would cause a temporary surge in work."
Boeing also noted that in South Carolina, where its work force isn't unionized, "we have the unique capability to be flexible to quickly hire contract labor to address these work surge requirements as they arise. We also have the added flexibility and ability to move teammates internally around the site to support production in all operations if the need arises, and the ability to leverage the support available from other non-represented Boeing manufacturing sites.
"At some point in our production in the past, we've exercised all of these options and will continue to do so as needed going forward," the company said.
The local plant's initial goal is to assemble three 787s a month.
"Right now, Boeing South Carolina is making its rate commitments and has a solid plan to continue to implement improvements as we go forward," the company said. "While we have some challenges to address, we see no risk to the program's ability to meet its commitments."
The Journal reported that Boeing is hiring the temporary help to smooth out delays on the 787 mid-body fuselages.
Those structures are made in Italy and transported by plane to South Carolina, where workers install wiring, electronics and other components. From there, the sections go to the final 787 assembly lines in North Charleston and Everett, Wash.
Citing an unidentified production worker in North Charleston, the Journal reported that the volume of unfinished tasks - also called "traveled work" - is higher now than it was in July 2011.
"As a general rule we typically do not publicly share specific details of our production operations," Boeing said.
The company had about 6,700 employees in North Charleston as of last month, It has committed to hire another 2,000 more by 2020.
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