Boeing Vice President and General Manager Raymond Conner shares his thoughts on the obstacles in today’s economy that are hindering the manufacturing business.
>> 787 being assembled just outside these doors. nice to see you. i am dylan ratigan. this area home to boeing, one of the several great manufacturingers based here in the great northwest, and we’ll take you inside the nucor steel, and efficiency and innovation the name of the game for more than 100 years, an industrial neighbor that is incredibly efficient and as a result welcomed in this town. companies like nucor and boeing a couple success stories here in the seattle and the northwest, but they too are operating in an increasely hostile manufacturing sector, with rigged trade particularly between china and the united states. 5.5 million jobs outsourced, tens of thousands of plants shut down, nearly 100,000 facing a similar fate, as we debate shared sacrifice with public sector cuts in states like wisconsin, what seems to be lost in the debate is how we’re going to bring good jobs back to america. can companies like nucor and boeing overcome the incredible obstacles of that rigged trade, tariffs ten times higher importing to china then coming into our own country, a currency 50 cents cheaper than our own dollar. well, impressively companies like boeing and nucor have been able to achieve success. our first guest here today in the great state of washington is boeing vice president of supply chain and management, ray conner. ray, it’s a pleasure to see.
>> nice to see you.
>> you started as a mechanic.
>> that’s correct.
>> if you look at the business of assembling this plane, you took a bunch of jobs that were here out, brought them back. why?
>> it really comes down to four things, when you think about where do we do work? where are you most productive and most efficient? obviously we have tremendous capability here in the northwest around the entire understanding. where can we get the most talent and most resources? and then when we do go global, because we do sell 85% of our backlog is international, we look to where we can achieve market access or resources and talent in those international places as well. the last thing, dylan, is we always, always want to protect the key critical capabilities that keep us competitive in the long run.
>> what does that mean?
>> you know, like key core ip, intellectual property. what are the things we always want to do? what are the things we hold dear to our hearts, the secret sauce, so to speak?
>> forget suffering or benefiting, how much does the trade policies, specifically the trade policies and the currency and all the rest of it with china, affect the way you have to do business?
>> well, i mean, i think what’s happened with what the administration is doing, thee trying to expand the trade agreements, the things we have done with the wto agreement, all those things. we’re just looking for a level playing field so we can go out and battle our competition in a level playing field so we can win on our own merits.
>> at the same time your competition is in airbus, in effect a state-run company and the other big trade competitor is china, which is effectively a state-run economy. how much of a disadvantage do you have in that context, or advantage?
>> it still comes down to providing the best products, safest, most reliability and most cost-efficient in the world. if we stay close on price, we tend to win those games.
>> a headline on the dreamliner specifically, and incredible advancement, and a stack of headaches trying to make that happen, as you know better than i, but they characterize the dream liner, executives admit the aggressive outsourcing put them in partnership with employers that weren’t up to the job. they didn’t recognize spending so much work abroad would have more intense management from the home plant than less. is that a fair assessment?
>> i think that’s fair. when we moved it out, we did not use as much oversight. we did bring back some of the work. we purchased the facility in south carolina, the global area naughtic facility there, a joint venture there. so we brought things back into the boeing fold and we’re moving forward.
>> one of the really big issues is do you have the engineers? do you have the young people as so many of the boeing employees and so many of the manufacturing workers in general are baby boomers. we sat with david gearing, he gave a characterization of how desperate the need for new talent is. i want you to take a listen and respond.
>> we need 1500 airframe mechanic every year, but our state only turns out 150. we’re failing in 90% of the cases.
>> why are there so few relative to the demand?
>> our education system isn’t well aligned to support our economy, and stem is a great tool to try to bring that back. do you agree with that?
>> how much of a problem? it’s more as you look forward. we have to start bringing more younger talent in so they can be the next engineers that design the next dream liners in the future. we have a lot of capable talented dedicated people now, but it’s more about the future, so we can keep perpetuating this thing, so we can be here for the next 100 years as well. five years we’ll celebrate or 100th anniversary. we want be here for another 100.
>> we spent some time at cleveland high, which is the science technology and math school, i think the only one that exists in seattle right now. how many more of those types of schools do we need?
>> a lot more. 10, 12, it’s hard to even say, but when you look forward and start to see what the demand is for our aircraft, we’re going to need so much more as we move forward.
>> listen, ray, thank you for hosting us here and thank you for educating us.