MIAMI – Boeing will restart production in a phased manner at its Puget Sound region facilities starting next week, prompting its shares to jump 8% long after the manufacturer halted production at the Seattle factory last month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the company’s press release, Boeing has taken extra precautions at all its sites, implementing comprehensive procedures to keep people safe to stave off the spread of the virus as it is set to restart its operations.
Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and senior executive in the Pacific Northwest said, “The health and safety of our employees, their families and communities is our shared priority.”
The CEO also said that the phased approach would ensure Boeing has a reliable supply base, adding that personal protective equipment was readily available at the site and that all the necessary safety measures were put in place “to resume essential work for our customers.”
First steps on the long road to recovery
Around 27,000 Boeing workers will return to production of the 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs, resuming work at the Puget Sound area to support critical global transportation infrastructure, cargo services and national defense and security missions.
Boeing will also continue production of the troublesome 737 MAX after a three-month hiatus. The aircraft production restarts follow the manufacturer’s resumption of defense production operations last week in South Carolina, with a returning workforce of 2,500.
At Puget Sound, employees will restart work on the third shift on April 20 with most returning to work by April 21. Employees for the 787 program will in turn resume activities on the third shift April 23, with most workers returning to the plant by April 24.
Top management will report to the company’s plants on Friday; lower-level managers and overnight factory, on April 20. Boeing will still advise workers who can work from home to do so.
According to the press release, at Puget Sound, the company has reinforced “enhanced cleaning, employee health and physical distancing in partnership with employees.”
Following federal and state guidelines, these practices include:
- 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 available
As operations resume at Puget Sound, Boeing says it will continue to monitor government guidance on COVID-19, evaluate its impact on company operations and adjust plans as the situation develops.
Last month, the company suspended Seattle-area operations after its first employee succumbed to the COVID-19 virus, sending shock waves through its supplier base after the calamity occurred. Today’s announcement means there may be a sense of hope not only for Boeing but for the industry.
The restarting of operations at Boeing’s largest industrial center also means there is a restored sense of confidence in the company, boosted by the US$25b aid package deal between U.S. airlines and the Treasury Department, according to Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun.
Additional lending to keep liquidity flowing
As Boeing’s share went up after the news it was resuming production at Puget Sound, Calhoun went on to give clues that the company was closing in on a deal of its own to boost its financial reserves, a move that, in turn, boosted confidence in the company, according to a Bloomberg report.
Due to the 737 MAX and COVID-19 fallouts, Boeing’s shares went down 59% until the end of yesterday’s trading session. After today’s announcement, the company’s shares went up 8% to $145 after the close of regular trading in New York.
In his Puget Sound announcement, Calhoun stated, “Our team continues to focus on the best ways to keep liquidity flowing through our business and to our supply chain until our customers are buying airplanes again.”
Showing confidence amid the current industry climate, the CEO drove his point home by saying, “We continue to believe strongly in the future of aviation and of Boeing as the industry leader and are willing to borrow against that future.”