Boeing still 'keen' on second South Yorkshire factory

Aerospace giant Boeing said it is keen to build another multi-million pound factory in Yorkshire following the success of its first plant in the region - but added it’s too soon to talk about when it might happen.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 11:12 am

Anna Keeling, managing director of Boeing Defence UK, said South Yorkshire was an attractive base for the company due to its manufacturing skills and that Boeing Commercial was keen to expand its presence in the region.

The Star revealed plans for a second facility on the day Boeing’s first factory in Europe opened in Sheffield in October 2018. Boeing bosses rubbished the story at the time.

But Ms Keeling this week said: “We are continuing to evaluate those plans and I don’t think we have any specific timing yet as to when that might happen but we’re looking at the success of Boeing Sheffield so far and it’s definitely something we’re keen to do.”

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Anna Keeling the MD for Boeing UK. Picture by Simon Hulme

Orders for Boeing planes plunged earlier this year following two fatal crashes, largely due to cancellations for the 737 Max, the model involved in two accidents in five months killing a total 346 people.

It is understood Boeing bought a large plot of land from Sheffield last year. The plan is to make different, but complementary, parts to Boeing Sheffield, but in a much bigger factory.

There are now 75 employees at Boeing Sheffield, about 20 are apprentices. It makes components which are used on the trailing edge of the wings for the 737 and 767 commercial aeroplanes.

James Needham, senior operations leader Boeing Sheffield.

Ms Keeling said the £40m factory at Sheffield Business Park was just reaching the stage where the parts would be shipped to the US for production for the first time.

The decision to build there was because “the UK is viewed as an innovation powerhouse by Boeing,” she said.

It already had a base at the nearby Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre. However, when it looked at the business cases for potential locations, it also discovered that the city more cost effective than Mexico.

Meanwhile, Ms Keeling, who took up her post in January 2019, said she also plans to expand the UK footprint of Boeing Defence.

Opening day: Sir Michael Arthur, President , Boeing Europe and Managing Director, Boeing UK and Ireland, James Needham, Boeing Sheffield, Senior Operations Leader and Jenette Ramos, Senior Vice President, Boeing Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Operations Picture: Marie Caley.

Boeing’s defence and commercial divisions together operate across 65 sites and employ 2,500 people directly.

“It’s extremely important to have a regional presence across the UK because our model is a hub and spoke model. We have centres of excellence but we also need to be located close to our customers,” she said.

Ms Keeling was speaking during a visit to Leeds for the Forward Ladies National Awards Grand Final.

During her keynote speech on gender diversity, she told the audience that they did not have to be a manager, an entrepreneur, a business leader or an executive in order to lead.

“Leadership is not a title, it’s not power. Leadership is not a position. Leadership is an action - your ability to take someone by the hand and show them the way and to be an example,” she said.

“It’s your ability to raise your voice and advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves.It’s your ability to do something when everyone around you does nothing. It’s your ability to make a difference.”

Ms Keeling said she recently made the decision to mentor men as well as women.

“That’s when I started to see changes in behaviour. Because these men start to experience the power of diversity through these mentoring relationships. They then go out and start to seek advice from a much wider pool of people.

“Then they’ll start questioning the make up of their teams and their hiring practices.”