May 30, 2024

A Spirit AeroSystems sign at the company's facilities in Wichita, Kansas

A Spirit AeroSystems sign at the company’s facilities in Wichita, Kansas
Photo: Julie Denesha (Getty Images)

One of Boeing’s big problems at the moment is that it can’t build planes as quickly as it and its customers would like. But a key supplier is teasing that it has figured out a way to help Boeing become more productive.

“We’ve developed a plan that we believe affords us a high degree of confidence that we will meet Boeing’s demand rate and quality expectations,” Spirit AeroSystems spokesperson Joe Buccino told Reuters. He did not clarify what the plan was or how exactly it would help Boeing, alluding that the company would say more when it presents earnings next week.

Boeing has been struggling to get its jets built since a January door plug blowout on an Alaska Airlines-operated 737 Max 9 plane amid scrutiny from regulators and the Justice Department. Deliveries to clients have taken a nosedive. CEO Dave Calhoun announced that he will retire later this year as part of the fallout.

Ironically, Spirit was the supplier behind that faulty door plug. In a practice called “traveled work,” it would ship incomplete fuselages from its facilities in Wichita, Kansas to Boeing factories in Washington state to help make up for any delays in the production process. While Spirit and Boeing crews were working on the Alaska Airlines plane in one such “traveled work” operation, four crucial bolts went missing.

Speculation has ramped up in recent months that Boeing will acquire Spirit — which used to be a Boeing operation until it was spun out in 2005 — in a bid to gain more control over its manufacturing processes. Calhoun told CNBC in March that negotiations were still ongoing and that getting the deal done is a major priority.

“It’s a critical supply for us, critical,” he said. “It’s our fuselage. When you go out in the factory, the first thing you’re going to see is our fuselage. It’s a Boeing fuselage. Our job is to make sure mechanics and engineers freely travel between the shop floor and the design effort, and that they can help one another every step of the way. Vertical integration is the only way to accomplish that.”

Spirit AeroSystems stock was flat in Wednesday trading. Boeing shares were up a little over 3%.

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