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Boeing and its workers tussle over automation

Boeing worker and robot
A worker keeps watch on a riveting robot inside the mid-body fuselage of a 777 jet. (Boeing Photo)

Boeing’s moves to automate its manufacturing processes and streamline the quality assurance process for its airplanes has sparked discussions with union officials over the effect on jobs.

The controversy came to light in the current issue of Aero Mechanic — the newspaper published by the International Association of Machinists’ District 751, which represents Boeing assembly workers — and in The Seattle Times.

Union leaders are concerned about a Boeing campaign known as “Quality Transformation,” which relies on automated processes such as robotic riveting and precision machining to cut down on manufacturing defects. Boeing says such processes make airplane assembly more “mistake-proof.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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