Boeing painted an optimistic picture of future production and profits
as it announced better than expected quarterly results Wednesday.
Chief Executive Jim McNerney even shrugged aside the July 12 Dreamliner fire at London's Heathrow Airport as a blip in the new jet's progress.
"We remain highly confident in the future of the 787 program and the integrity, safety and performance of the airplane," McNerney said in a conference call.
But executives also underscored Boeing's unrelenting campaign to lower costs, which may come at the expense of local jobs.
While production of the 787 and other jets is to boom here, employment apparently is not.
Asked about Puget Sound-area job cuts this year and future job prospects, Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith spoke of moving work to lower-cost regions of the U.S.
"We made choices to go to more affordable areas within the business to ... drive productivity and profitability," said Smith.
Boeing is looking to place more work at sites "where we see lower overall cost rates," he added.
Though Boeing's leadership had made similar statements, they typically came either during union contract bargaining or when management was seeking incentives to locate a new airplane program here.
In contrast, Smith's remarks were a statement of a general strategic push that threatens to lower Boeing's already sagging employment level in the Puget Sound region.
Smith said the projected 800 layoffs in the production workforce announced in March were driven by improved efficiency as the 787 shifted to smoother, more routine assembly work.
But other job cuts here -- such as the movement of IT jobs to Missouri and South Carolina and up to 700 layoffs in engineering that were announced in April -- were apparently more driven by cost considerations.
Even as engineering-employment rates here are set to fall, Boeing has placed some 737 MAX engineering design work in South Carolina and moved some engineering support work on older jets to California.
As for the future employment trend here, Smith said: "We peaked out last year. We're starting to come down this year and will continue to assess that going forward.
"We are looking at every opportunity to continue to drive productivity and profitability."
In a later conversation, Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said Smith's remarks about employment costs here were broadly applicable as Boeing responds to the competitive nature of the commercial business and to defense-side cuts.
Boeing defense jobs have disappeared in the Puget Sound region, too.
Bickers said some corporate support functions have been "centralized to bring down cost." For example, he said, accounting for the defense division has been centralized in St. Louis.
McNerney attributed much of Wednesday's upbeat earnings news to such cost cutting and efficiency improvements.
In response to defense cuts, he said, "We've gotten after our costs very aggressively and very early."
And Smith said the better-than-expected profit margins on the commercial side came down to "a very solid, disciplined focus ... on all aspects of cost."
Overall, Boeing took in revenue for the quarter of nearly $22 billion, and reported a net profit of $1.1 billion, for a profit margin of 7.9 percent.
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