Reflection on the 787-10’s first flight: how the aerospace and logistics industries depend on one another

Adrianne & SuzanneEarlier this month, members of the Council’s staff had the opportunity to be on-hand as the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner took its inaugural flight in North Charleston. The flight marked a significant milestone for South Carolina –the 787-10 is the first Boeing aircraft to be manufactured entirely at Boeing’s North Charleston facility.  SC Aerospace Director Adrianne Beasley and SC Logistics Director Suzanne Dickerson paused to reflect on this milestone, specifically how industries in South Carolina can depend on one another to remain competitive.

Beasley and Dickerson emphasized that cooperation between the state’s aerospace and logistics clusters, as well as its other industries, can advance South Carolina’s long-term economic competitiveness and is a natural step for industries so closely intertwined.

“It makes sense to build, retain and grow assets that benefit more than one targeted segment of the economy,” Dickerson said. “Providing a strong statewide level of support through educational and workforce development programs and other assets is important to enhance, connect and grow these industries.”

According to Beasley, a strong workforce is only part of the answer as to why these industries have flourished here.

“South Carolina has a legacy of manufacturing, which has created a strong infrastructure to support the growing aerospace and logistics clusters,” Beasley said. “The state has done an excellent job of promoting a welcoming economic climate for these large industry clusters – allowing companies to keep costs low and increase revenue. Combine that with a skilled workforce, and it creates an environment that is ripe for growth.”

This environment is precisely why industries are seeing such high growth rates in South Carolina. A study released by the Council last year on the aerospace industry’s economic impact found that aerospace has a $19 billion economic impact on the state’s economy and accounts for 100,000 jobs.

Growth in aerospace is a good sign for logistics as well, particularly where the clusters intersect.

“Air freight is the fastest growing freight transportation mode and is expected to grow by 97% over the next two decades,” Dickerson explained. “Here it makes sense to connect those air freight providers, who are typically known as third-party logistics providers, or 3PL, with more manufacturers who can leverage this growth to improve their productivity.  This is extremely important considering we expect a nearly doubling of the amount of freight movement in our state over the next decades.”

Beasley and Dickerson said the intersection between clusters is exactly where efforts to grow and advance industry in South Carolina can be maximized.

“Nearly 10 percent of the aerospace workforce in South Carolina are in the air transportation and air freight fields, but that isn’t the only overlap in the two clusters,” Beasley said. “Large scale manufacturing relies heavily on efficient supply chain management, collecting and analyzing big data and improving information technology.”

“Specific technologies are rallying points for collaboration between these two sectors – advanced materials, virtual and augmented reality technologies, big data and cybersecurity are examples,” Dickerson said.

The completed 787-10 Dreamliner is a perfect example of the synergy between industries that makes South Carolina a great place to do business.

“South Carolina’s track record of building some of the world’s most complex and highest quality machines shows firsthand the skilled labor force that we have in the state and certainly helps us to attract new companies to invest here,” Dickerson said. “As more suppliers move to South Carolina to support the growing highly technical clusters like aerospace and automotive, the more critical efficient logistics will be to those industries. Being in those discussions in the early phases of development with industry and the supply chain will give us the best competitive advantage.”

“With each new product and facility that is invested in in South Carolina, we see a ripple effect in growth of suppliers and support industries, all of which increase the number of highly skilled jobs for South Carolinians,” Beasley added. “That’s why the 787-10 Dreamliner is such a huge accomplishment for South Carolina.”

For more on SC Aerospace and SC Logistics, please visit their websites.