NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina, Feb 19 (Reuters) - A plan by Japan’s Toray Industries Inc to build a $1 billion carbon fiber manufacturing plant in South Carolina is among the “proactive efforts” to support Boeing Co’s drive to ramp up its production of 787 Dreamliners, Boeing said on Wednesday.
Toray and state officials said this week that the company had purchased 400 acres in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, for a factory that will create 500 new jobs.
The investment of $1 billion over the next decade will establish an advanced material base closer to where Boeing builds the high-tech Dreamliner.
Toray supplies carbon fiber material pre-impregnated with epoxy resin used to make the body and wings of the Dreamliner, which are lighter and more fuel-efficient than metal planes.
“Toray is an important supplier on the 787 program, and we support its proactive efforts in regard to the program’s planned rates of more than 10 (airplanes) a month,” Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said.
Toray said in January that it plans to expand its carbon fiber production plant in Tacoma, Washington. The company said the expansion was in response to Boeing’s decision to raise the number of 787s it builds to 12 a month in 2016.
“South Carolina offers Toray Industries an ideal location for our next North American manufacturing facility,” Akihiro Nikkaku, president of Toray Industries, said in a statement. “Here we will have proximity to major customers, both in the U.S. and in Latin American markets.”
More than 1,000 787s have been ordered by about 60 airlines worldwide.
Boeing’s South Carolina facility, located in North Charleston, makes all aft and midbody fuselage sections for the 787. Most of those sections are shipped to Everett, Washington, for final assembly of the airplane, with the remainder assembled into finished planes in South Carolina.
South Carolina aims to build three finished jets a month by mid-year, with Everett producing seven, Boeing said.
The company’s goal is to build a dozen 787s a month by mid-2016 and 14 a month by the end of the decade.
Boeing’s ability to churn out the Dreamliner is crucial to its financial performance this year as the company is relying on commercial jetliners to offset a weak defense business. While Boeing still loses money on each 787 that it builds, it gets closer to breaking even as production increases.
The South Carolina plant recently hired hundreds of contract workers to help it catch up on a backlog of thousands of 787 assembly work orders. The effort is expected to take months, sources said.