Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Building The 787 Where Angels Fear To Tread

Sitting in a room 10 years ago someone had a bright idea! Let's rid ourselves of this blight found in the Northwest Unions. I for one don't adhere to the principles of unionism for various reason, but do acknowledge, the unions have played a significant role in the development of excellence. Even though the road is often rocky, the only motivations of unions are those benefits its leadership promises during each contract cycle.

South Carolina airplane building has a problem or greater than the sum of its workforce. Boeing intellect decided to build a union busting plant for its 787. That same leadership forgot to do several import things, like put people in positions who are realistic, and don't promise everything to get ahead.

In order to make the Charleston project work, upper management had set unrealistic goals and objectives beyond the capabilities of the newly formed plant culture.  Yes, plant culture. The culture is built upon a diverse population of workers from various backgrounds. The Everett model of culture is significantly different than Charleston's culture. Everett was not emulated in Charleston.  The can-do spirit in Everett, where it knows what it can do, will buck back if something isn't right.

In Charleston they will push through whether wires are connected or not. Management may parrot back yes we can even without a clue. The Everett Management is not competing with its list of unrealistic goals, but is competing with doing it right the first time.  Charleston has a corporate culture of not fully aware of having a matured production culture.

So Boeing is in transition of catching Charleston up with 80 plus years of building airplanes under the stress of war, commercial enterprise and finally advance technology in what the Boeing world is now experiencing. The Charleston building airplane culture did not exist five years ago. Boeing cobbled together this work force from some Everett people, surplus Engineers and walk up workers. Its management pool is given goals that are out there, while the team accepts that it can do anything to get there. The workforce of young and older upward mobile types have tendencies to do an over the top assessment of capabilities. They accept unrealistic goals with glee.

In Charleston they have colliding mid barrel sections, missing parts and incomplete work. Early signs of a no problem mentality refusing to get its culture in order. Everett is an airplane building culture is more calm and purpose driven. The Charleston culture is in a race to beat Everett. A job well-over its production rate's head. Charleston needs to reload the workforce, as it should have in the beginning.

The reason I know this because of where Charleston is today. The unit is struggling and overworks the problems. Everett has a well-conceived pace from its airplane building culture. Charleston will get there in three years, and Boeing knows it. Charleston must gain a superior mindset for getting it right the first time as Everett does reflexively. Those cultural memory muscles exist in Everett, but does not appear in Charleston, as that plant sorts out its mishaps.

Charleston Must Achieve The Following:

1.  A generational airplane building Culture.
2.  Memory Muscle on the production floor.
3.  Leadership immune from Corporate Rhetoric
4.  An Organization Focused On Getting it Right
5.  The main purpose is the main purpose

Sounds almost Union, but it isn't, it sounds like craftsmanship.