Boeing: Faith in UK manufacturing

Posted on 30 Jan 2018 by Jonny Williamson

Aerospace giant Boeing has backed up its 80-year presence in the UK and faith in UK manufacturing by building its first European production facility in Sheffield.

Boeing employs more than 2,200 people across the UK at numerous sites, from Glasgow to Gosport - image courtesy of Boeing
Ground was broken last year for the new 6,200 sqm Boeing plant, which will make components for flight control actuation systems – image courtesy of Boeing

The AMRC was founded in 2001 as a partnership between the University of Sheffield and Boeing.

Co-founders Professor Keith Ridgeway and local businessman Adrian Allen drove the project and worked with like-minded visionaries in Boeing to establish the centre on land between Sheffield and Rotherham.

Since then, it has grown – with the new Factory 2050 building the most prominent addition.


But two new additions to the AMRC family promise to be even more compelling. The McLaren Automotive Composites Technology Centre and Boeing’s first production facility in Europe.

Ground was broken last year for the new 6,200 sqm Boeing plant, which will make components for the actuation systems that will form part of the flight control systems for the company’s Next-Generation 737, 737 MAX and 777.

About 8,000 parts a month will be made in Sheffield, for shipment to a Boeing assembly plant in Portland, Oregon.

The project represents the fulfilment of a quite natural ambition on the part of the founders that one day Boeing could be convinced to translate their research partnership into actual manufacturing.

Getting there was a function of demonstrating that the region, and in particular the AMRC, could provide the skills pool necessary for a new advanced manufacturing facility.

This article first appeared in the February issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.

When it opens later this year, the plant will initially employ 30 people, rising to 50 when production hits its stride. Among them will be 18 apprentices, who are already in training at the AMRC Training Centre.

High-quality training

Our first apprentice cohort – first years only
150 first year apprentices at the AMRC Training Centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham – image courtesy of AMRC.

“We have over 600 staff here,” co-founder and now executive director of the AMRC, Adrian Allen said, “And to date, our AMRC Training Centre has trained over 800 talented engineering apprentices, some of whom will now form a new generation of Boeing engineers.

“Drawing on our expertise here at the AMRC will ensure Boeing can take advantage of the latest technologies, techniques and research to fuel its growth within the UK and provide opportunities for the UK supply chain.”

For Boeing, the £20m investment was a natural development of the partnership that has proved so fruitful over the past 17 years.

“The UK provides Boeing with the talent and infrastructure we need to grow and maintain a high level of productivity and quality to meet our significant order book,” said Sir Michael Arthur, president of Boeing Europe and managing director of Boeing UK and Ireland.

“Our decision to start manufacturing high value components in the UK is a step-change in our engagement and a further example of Boeing’s commitment to grow here, supporting the UK’s long-term prosperity.”

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, added that the investment marked a key milestone in a 20-year relationship between the University of Sheffield and Boeing, but also between Boeing’s global ambitions as a company and the UK.

“The University’s AMRC with Boeing is a true partnership,” he said. “It began with a vision of true collaboration between world-leading research and industry and has grown over the years to include supply chain companies, new technologies and high-performance materials, virtual reality prototyping, the data revolution and the training of advanced apprentices.

The AMRC’s Factory 2050 is home to the groups Integrated Manufacturing Group. It is located on The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Campus at Sheffield Business Park.
The AMRC’s Factory 2050 is home to the groups Integrated Manufacturing Group – image courtesy of AMRC.

“Its founders Professor Keith Ridgway, Adrian Allen and close colleagues in Boeing always hoped that at some point aerospace production itself might be located alongside our AMRC in Sheffield.

“Now they have seen that dream fulfilled through their talent and hard work over many years, bringing with it wonderful opportunities for young people.”

And there’s more

Boeing also plans to initiate a major R&D programme with the AMRC, to develop new manufacturing techniques that can be applied to the Boeing Sheffield facility and then leveraged across the company at large.

The company employs more than 2,200 people across the UK at numerous sites, from Glasgow to Gosport, and this year it will celebrate 80 years of partnership with the United Kingdom, the Armed Forces, British manufacturing and the air transport industry.

Boeing’s direct expenditure with the UK aerospace industry in 2016 was £2.1bn and supports an estimated 16,500 jobs in the UK supply chain.