After suspending operations in response to the Covid-19 emergency, Boeing is about to resume the commercial aircrafts production in Puget Sound.
Of course lots of precautions will be taken, and Boeing is not willing to risk the health of its employees, as Stan Deal (CEO and President of Boeing Commercial Airplanes) said.
The pandemic has placed several challenges to all the industries in the world, but one of the most hit sectors, even when the pandemic will be over, is the commercial aviation sector.
With almost every airline suspending orders or rejecting to buy new planes while the fleet is grounded, the airplane constructors, such as Boeing and Airbus, are about to face a huge crisis in demand.
The decision made by Boeing to resume production in Puget Sound, by the way, doesn’t seem to be rushed or thoughtless in a period during which all the factories and enterprises, especially in Europe, are looking forward to resume production at a slower pace.
Boeing is not planning to resume operations with the normal procedures, instead all the measures that are meant to avoid the spread of coronavirus within the factory will be taken.
Staggered shift start times to reduce the flow of employees arriving and departing work
Visual controls such as floor markings and signage to create physical distance
Face coverings will be a requirement for employees at Boeing sites in Washington. Employees are strongly encouraged to bring in their own procedural mask or face covering; those who do not have a mask available will be provided with one.
Providing required personal protective equipment to employees working in areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained for an extended period
Asking employees to perform self-health checks before coming to work and to stay home if they are ill
Employee wellness checks at the beginning of every shift and voluntary temperature screening at many manufacturing locations
Contact tracing when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 to reduce risk to teammates
Continued virtual meetings and employees who can work from home will continue to do
Transportation and common areas adjusted for physical distancing
Hand-washing stations in high-traffic areas and additional cleaning supplies availablefrom airlive.net
As you can see from the list of the precautions that Boeing will take, only the employees that can’t operate in smart-working will be interested (27.000 of its 70.000 employees).
Is quite easy to imagine that, basically, the production chain and a few other sectors will be reactivated this month.
Of course it’s not easy to apply physical distancing in any areas, but a production chain is plenty of space to locate employees.
While Boeing South Carolina’s operations will remain suspended, employees in the Puget Sound for the 737, 747, 767 and 777 will return between April 20 and April 21.
The 787 program, instead, will be reactivated not earlier than April 23.
In a note to the staff, Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun, has cheered the progress made by quite a few airlines in securing government aids to sustain the actual crisis.
With IATA’s estimation of an approximate loss of $250 billion in mid-March and travel demand reduced by 95% only in the U.S., Boeing is not likely to receive orders for new airliners in a reasonable amount of time.
The situation of the iconic industry is not so clear.
Calhoun has never said anything about applying government aids for Boeing itself, but it’s known that the Company has been looking for a loan of approximately $60 million for the aerospace industry, discussing government equity stakes in return for federal relief.
The actual crisis comes in Boeing’s hardest time in a while, after the 737 MAX situation lead to a drop in orders, only partially recovered by the hype generated by the launch of the new 777X.
The consequences of Boeing’s decision
We all wish to return to normality as soon as possible, and that’s what the market seems to want.
After the announce of the gradual recovery of production, Boeing’s stock has marked a noticeable increase (+14,72%).
These numbers are not regarding only the company itself, but are beneficial to all the other enterprises, also based in Europe, that are cooperating with Boeing in the commercial aircraft production.
One example is Leonardo, which has been hit directly with the suspension of the 787 program and has decided to produce valves for respirators in Grottaglie’s plant where, apparently pretty soon, they will resume the construction of some sections of the Dreamliner’s fuselage.
On the other side, the biggest Boeing’s competitor, Airbus group has marked an increase in Paris stock exchange.
In the end, Boeing has made a decision which could be either a suicide, should the virus start to spread in the factory again, or the turning point of a crisis which is bringing aviation to its knees.
Considering the market’s reaction and the, finally, increased trust in the industry, the turning point interpretation seem to be the favorite one.
Will it be enough? I don’t think so, because aviation is like a puzzle made by many pieces that, taken together, are way more important than some aircraft producers.
First of all, the biggest challenge that the business will face in the next weeks will be keeping the budget airlines, that are moving lots of passengers all over the world, alive.
We could consider if our business has survived only after passenger flights will be restored.