On the same day Boeing Co. announced it will build the 787-10 exclusively in North Charleston, the local factory dismissed some contract laborers hired earlier this year to help with production problems on the Dreamliner's smaller models.
"On July 30, we released a small number of subcontractors," Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said Wednesday. "We constantly evaluate our workforce requirements and adjust contract labor staffing as our business needs evolve."
She declined to specify the number of workers let go.
The company regularly uses experienced contract labor to supplement its workforce while ramping up production rates to maintain stable operations, she said.
"That's standard practice in the aerospace industry and other industries," Eslinger added. "We've said all along that it's our plan to use direct-hire Boeing employees to perform the statement of work in South Carolina but will do so in a planned and deliberate way."
Last winter, the North Charleston site that fully assembles the 787-8 and makes parts for the 787-9 brought in hundreds of temporary laborers, or contract workers, to help fill a backlog of unfinished work in the midbody fuselage assembly area. The center fuselage is added to planes assembled locally and shipped to Everett, Wash., where Dreamliners are also produced.
The surge in workers occurred after Boeing decided last year to increase production to 10 787s a month between the two assembly sites. Everett makes seven Dreamliners a month while North Charleston now makes three per month.
The company also offered catch-up work bonuses to employees, but not contract workers, during the spring if they met certain production goals. The rewards were paid out in June, just as the North Charleston planemaking operation started meeting its three-a-month goal.
That number will climb to five a month locally in 2016 and seven per month in 2019, matching the number now produced in Everett.
Eslinger said that with production now stabilized at full rate, the site will gradually reduce its temporary workers.
"We don't anticipate an impact to our production rates as a result of this approach," she said.
The North Charleston site will start full assembly on the 787-9, the slightly larger version of the Dash 8 model, this fall.
Production on the 787-10, the biggest member of the Dreamliner family, will start in North Charleston in 2017, with its first delivery to a customer scheduled for the following year.
Boeing will produce the 787-10 exclusively in North Charleston because the longer middle fuselage section will be too big to transport to Washington state.
The Chicago-based company said last week that adding the new line to the Lowcountry will not result in any significant number of new jobs or new buildings at the 7,500-employee plant.
Work has started on the new paint facility along International Boulevard, where all 787s will be painted in customers' colors when it opens in 2016. Currently, finished Dreamliners are flown to Texas and California to be painted and flown back to North Charleston, where airline customers worldwide pick them up.
Boeing also last fall acquired nearly 500 acres across from its main campus, targeting it for future development. It has not announced what it plans to do with the property.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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