Sunday, May 19, 2013

Just In Time 787 Tuning

The Wall Street Journal Aviation Experts, Jon Ostrower and Andy Pasztor, have laid out some important talking points, easily overlooked by aviation enthusiast and  other people seeking analysis for its investments. Jon has covered the 787 from the days before 7E7, and knows its bones well.  He writes about "other issues" so we know what else is transpiring during its break in year.  The benefit of the battery issue  had an important underlying fix for the 787, time, applied to all other newly delivered 787 airplanes and those in production with related squawks.  If the 787 kepted flying a normal rotation without a substantial shutdown, it would have been harder to implement "other fixes", found in the maturation of a new airplane.

Dreamliner's Other Issues Draw Attention WSJ, Jon Ostrower

The above link leads you to an accurate assessment of what else needs refining for 787 and how battery related down time enabled Boeing to achieve fixes towards hardware, firmware and systems upgrades. Part of the problem for operators is on time goals that don't come easy for operations.  The value of the 787 is not just found in its plastics, engines or design, but in the hidden agenda of its "Just In Time" management systems. As the article points out, something detected inflight has a part waiting for it  when it lands and then getting the aircraft back up during its 45 minute turnaround window. It reminds me of the pit crew at the racetrack. The computers on the race car indicate braking wear, tire status and engine indicators so when it comes in to a pit stop, the crew is ready with tires, wrenches and duct tape and gets the car out in 12 seconds or less. 

Boeing has this silent computer partner, riding on all its 787 aircraft. It knows when its enough for something and orders a change in advance of landing, where the crew are ready with parts, wrenches, and the right mechanical protocol. The second point that Boeing achieved, is the data and feedback from its customer indicating, what needs to be changed on the 787 once it lands.  Boeing drew on the bank of "down time", and made significant engineering tweaks on its inventory of 50 grounded aircraft.  What was once a disaster is now a break for the program, as it now allows Boeing to do upgrades in a timely manner across the board, even though grounding was a disaster, but critical ground was made up during the first five months of 2013 at this critical junction of the 787 aircraft production.

The Boeing exhale will show up at Paris. The 787 will have a new airplane shine on it. Everything coming out the Boeing plant door will have the upgrades, fixes, and refinements; better than what came out the door on December 31, 2012. The maturation of production will now start to sell more airplanes.

Please refer to the WSJ article as it details many other issues caught and resolved during this downtime, and Boeing's sense of direction has been refined by its customers. Not all customers are the same and not all airplanes require the same care to be on time.