Some of the Boeing workers who complete engines for delivery to final assembly plants will face a significantly longer commute, the company...

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Some of the Boeing workers who complete engines for delivery to final assembly plants will face a significantly longer commute, the company said Monday in an announcement that also stirred unease about the future of their 450-person unit, the Propulsion Systems Division (PSD).

As part of the company’s ongoing drive toward lean manufacturing, the work of PSD, currently done at a facility on Marginal Way in Seattle, is moving inside the final assembly plants in Renton and Everett. The move will happen within the next couple of years, with a likely even split of workers between the two sites. Many in the PSD work force live in South King County, making a commute to Everett an unwelcome change.

The engineers and mechanics at PSD do what is referred to as engine “build-up.” Engine makers General Electric, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney supply engine cores to PSD, which then adds the systems that connect the engine to the airplane. PSD also adds the systems to the struts that help hold the engine on the wing.

Boeing spokesman Bill Cogswell said moving that work to Renton and Everett will “bring engine build-up right next to the airplane” — a standard goal in lean manufacturing.

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Cogswell said Boeing will work with affected employees in the months ahead to make the commute changes easier, for example providing ride-share options.

“With the production rates we’re going at, you can’t just unplug and plug in [elsewhere],” he said. “It’ll have to be done in an orderly way.”

The announcement of the workplace change stirred up some worries about other potential changes. One PSD employee, who asked not to be identified, said that the work force has feared for some time that PSD might eventually be shrunk or sold off, or that part of its work, such as the struts systems, might be outsourced.

Cogswell acknowledged that on the new 787 program — considered the blueprint for future manufacturing — the two engine-makers will provide Boeing with “a more complete engine,” with correspondingly less work for PSD.

However, he denied any intention to phase out the Boeing unit. “It’s in the best interests of Boeing Commercial Airplanes to retain the intellectual and institutional capability that we’ve got in propulsion systems, design, build and support,” Cogswell said.

He said no layoffs are anticipated as a result of the announced move.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com