As Boeing booms, robots rise and job growth lags

An article published on Monday November 16th, 2015 in Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/16/us-boeing-production-robots-insight-idUSKCN0T50E420151116#b6etFO8RpHo75xX8.97, states that Boeing’s longstanding cycle of employment soaring when they needed to turn out more planes and then having to lay off employees when the rate fell is no longer. The world’s largest plane maker is in the midst of their biggest peacetime boom, producing 20% more planes than when the last big peak in the 1990’s. But, Boeing is doing so with 1/3 fewer workers, in their place Boeing is turning to robots and to outsourcing. Over the past year, they have installed four banks of 2 story riveting machines at their 737 factory in Renton, WA. These 60 ton robots work twice as fast as people and have two-thirds fewer defects. At their 777 plant in Everett, WA, they have installed robotic arms to drill and rivet fuselages together. According to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg the machines are “taking what is in the neighborhood of 50,000 to 70,000 fasteners in the 777 fuselage that are today applied by hand and automating them,” and that it is a “huge transformation in how we build airplanes.” Boeing believes that automation is essential to improve quality and worker safety, while also lowering costs and helping them keep up with their rival Airbus.

Will any other domestic airplane manufacturers switch to using robots? Should the workers at Boeing be frightened of losing their jobs to robots?

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