In August the backlog of unfinished airplanes around the plant grew by just half a dozen aircraft, an improvement over July.
Boeing airplane delivery figures for August suggest the manufacturer is at least beginning to get its production issues at the Renton 737 jet plant under control.
The jetmaker delivered 48 of the single-aisle 737s in the month, according to figures released Tuesday, which means that in August the backlog of unfinished airplanes around the plant grew by just half a dozen aircraft.
The August deliveries compare to only 29 the previous month. Because Boeing is continuing to roll 52 planes off the assembly lines each month, the backlog in July swelled by just shy of two dozen aircraft.
“Our team made good progress in August and we’re focused on fully recovering the delivery schedule by the end of the year,” Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said in a statement.
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Wall Street analysts, who received an upbeat outlook from Boeing management when they visited the plant for the company’s annual investor day last week, had been expecting visible progress for August and hoping for more than 40 deliveries. So 48 exceeded expectations.
Boeing largely attributes the logjam of jets in Renton to late delivery of fuselages from Spirit AeroSystems of Wichita, Kan., and new LEAP engines for the 737 MAX model from CFM International, the joint venture between GE and Safran of France.
In a note to investors after the delivery numbers were posted, Sheila Kahyaoglu, an analyst with Jefferies Research, said that as management has suggested, “Boeing should be able to recover from 737 supplier issues by the end of the year” and so meet its total airplane delivery target for the year of 810 jets.
However, meeting that target remains daunting.
In order to clear the 737 pile-up — which would mean reducing the number of parked, unfinished planes that last week stood at 53 down to the more typical number of 25 — Boeing needs to deliver a monthly average of 59 of the jets from September through December.
To achieve that, Boeing has added 600 workers in Renton both by hiring and by transferring people from Everett and other facilities in the Puget Sound region.
And after Boeing reached an agreement with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) in August, it is separately enticing some retirees from the union to rejoin the workforce on a temporary basis.
Providing Boeing continues to hire people, the union agreed to allow retirees to return for up to six months, while continuing to draw their pensions and earning a $500 bonus per month on top of their wages. Boeing reached a similar agreement with the IAM last October when it faced a shortage of workers due to a rush of retirements.
“We have brought in a small number of recently retired mechanics with certain skills,” Boeing’s Bergman said.
Renton will also work full tilt during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.