(Adds details about production improvements)
By Harriet McLeod
NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina, May 12 (Reuters) - E mployees at Boeing’s 787 manufacturing plant in South Carolina have reduced behind-schedule aircraft work by nearly three-quarters, stabilizing production and earning a one-time bonus, Boeing said on Monday.
Workers at the plant in North Charleston who assemble the 787 and make fuselage sections have achieved a greater than 72 percent reduction in so-called “jobs behind schedule” and have significantly increased the assembly of the fuselage sections and aircraft the factory produces, it said.
“This puts aft, mid-body and final assembly operations in both Everett (Washington) and South Carolina into a better position for a smoother, more efficient, more stable production flow, which was our ultimate goal,” said Candy Eslinger, a Boeing spokeswoman.
The company aims to entirely eliminate “traveled work” - jobs moved to another work station or factory from where they are supposed to be done - but has not achieved that so far.
The details suggest the world’s biggest plane maker is getting past problems that snarled production earlier this year.
Production of the mid-body fuselage of the 787 at the plant lagged last year after the layoffs of hundreds of contract workers were followed by a ramp-up in production rates.
Last fall, Boeing began hiring and training hundreds of new contract workers to make up the backlog and reduce the work that had to travel to the company’s Everett, Washington, final assembly plant.
In January, it set up the bonus program. Boeing has increased 787 production to 10 a month from seven, a milestone achieved with the rollout of the first aircraft built at that rate in January. That jet came from the Everett factory.
Eslinger said Boeing had a plan for sustaining the production rates and maintaining an efficient, stable production operation.
The first step in the plan is to have stable production at the full rate of 10 a month.
“We’re right (on) track by meeting these (bonus) goals,” she said. “The next phases will include a gradual reduction in contract labor over time.”
The bonus amounts to 8 percent of base pay for the previous 12 months for assemblers, or factory floor workers, according to The (Charleston) Post and Courier newspaper. Office workers will receive a flat $2,500, the paper reported. The bonus is paid only to Boeing direct employees, not contractors, Eslinger added. (Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Alwyn Scott, Leslie Adler and Andre Grenon)