Boeing plans 1Q '08 closure of Tennessee parts facility

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Boeing by the first quarter of 2008 will end parts production at its Oak Ridge, Tennessee facility, saying it no longer has sufficient Commercial Airplanes or other parts work to keep the center in operation.

Exiting Oak Ridge is “part of the continued consolidation and alignment of parts manufacturing capability and capacity across Boeing Fabrication facilities” says the airframer in a statement.

Next month, Boeing will begin the first in a series of 60-day layoff notices to employees in association with this announcement, it says.

The decision comes about seven months after Boeing struck a deal with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) on a new three-year contract for employees at its Oak Ridge facility, ending a strike. During the industrial action, Boeing transferred 737 and 777 flight deck console work to other locations while additional manufacturing work was recalled by prime contractors.

In April, the 265 remaining employees at Oak Ridge were informed of the company’s intention to exit Commercial Airplanes parts production at the facility and move remaining work to Boeing’s Salt Lake City plant and external suppliers.

At that time, the IAM chapter for Oak Ridge in an online message to membership said: “Contrary to what Boeing has told the salary employees, the closure is not entirely the fault of the 2006 strike, it has been in the plans for a long time.”

A Boeing spokeswoman today tells ATI: “What’s happening with the cease of operations [at Oak Ridge] absolutely does not have to do with the strike. The decision was made due to the overall lack of work…and there are limited prospects of future business.”

The Oak Ridge facility also makes parts for USEC, a supplier of enriched uranium fuel for commercial nuclear power plants. Centrifuge component work has been provided for USEC by Boeing at Oak Ridge since 2004.

USEC in a statement says it has selected BWX Technologies (BWXT) to assume responsibility for the manufacture of components for centrifuge machines at Oak Ridge. These will be used in USEC’s American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio.

“USEC has been working with Boeing on possible transition plans since Boeing decided to move its commercial airplane parts fabrication and assembly work from Oak Ridge to other Boeing sites,” says USEC.

It says Boeing is currently working with the city of Oak Ridge to make its existing facilities available for USEC’s centrifuge manufacturing.

BWXT, headquartered in Lynchburg, Virginia and a subsidiary of McDermott International, says it was selected by USEC for this work “because of its extensive experience with the design and cost-effective manufacturing of nuclear components and classified machinery”.

It notes that the transition from Boeing to BWXT “will occur in late 2007, and the contract is expected to continue through 2012”.

Boeing, meanwhile, says it has informed Oak Ridge employees of opportunities across Boeing for those willing to relocate to other sites.