Monday, March 3, 2014

Suppliers, The Risk Absorbing Shocks For Boeing

Every bump on the road to success with the 787 has been absorbed by Boeing's suppliers. From landing gears to Plastic manufacturing down to the nuts and bolts (fasteners), the suppliers have been leaned on by Boeing in epic proportions. Across the waters its the same thing for Airbus. They even use the same suppliers in many cases with different applications, or  engineered designs having a similar purpose driven part for its intended aircraft. In Boeing's case it was part of its "new way" of building aircraft. Spread the risk shock to supplying partners of structures down to the fastners.

The "new way", needed every "part" to wind itself through the process at a just-in-time pace. Hundreds of partners are fighting the same battle of arriving at the precise piece at the right moment as engineered. It sounds like a virtuoso performance at the Philharmonic. Pressure is on the tuba section to get it right. The Boeing conductor takes the baton and increases the assembly pace. Airbus reaches out for a production crescendo. The battle of the bands have sometimes the same band members, a Rolls Royce trumpet section play in both concerts at the same time. Both conductors cry for more music at the same time.

Mean while back at practice, the composure's or engineers remake a part and want the suppliers to "forget about it" and now make a zillion parts that look like this, "exactly"! Not much fun but the supplier has to absorb a Boeing sock on the road to progress. A second look is the unexpected failure of a battery. Too much science is wrapped in that one part alone. The FAA, battery maker, customers and Boeing are all involved without end finding a doable solution. The shock goes to the supplier as Boeing is not a battery maker. They are trying feverishly to keep the FAA happy and leans hard on its battery maker while going around that corner on Boeing's epic journey of the 787. Boeing calls Ted, as in "Ted's Most Excellent Adventure", and gets Ted's answering machine in the phone booth, "Party on dudes, most excellently".

The parts guys are going to take another one for the Boeing Team. Fastners, body structures, batteries, and so forth. Boeing would now like a ten a month of each part please, hold the defects and add the special farings, Until Engineers have discovered a new deficiency or a better improvement. These are all possibilities happening behind the scenes. The supplier's job is to keep  up with just-in-time pace, and absorb the development shocks as they occur along the way.

There is big money in being part of Boeing's layered approach to airplane development and manufacturing, but the wear and tear on that supplier is not unfamiliar, as found on the shocks of your own vehicle when giving a smoother ride down a bumpy road for your car. Eventually those shocks wear out. Boeing's bet it gets off that bumpy road before its suppliers wear out. The goal is to get off the 787 development road during this next period of time during the next 18 months. Before your eyes, a completed concept for the 787 will emerge. It is the emerging aircraft, bristled with technology that its competitors cannot offer or will not offer because they are climbing from behind and must make up ground where it can. Airbus does not want fasteners, batteries and barrels that requires more development risk. It shocks are set for a soft ride, but lack the higher end performance of that of which Boeing has acheived in  technological applications.

All electric stuff is a steep climb for Airbus as is the central core technology. Many aspects of the 787 that have not been mentioned much for some years, are not included on the A350. The Boeing Dream story falls back in memory as just a very complex aircraft. Air India continues with 139 stand downs on malfunctions. Maybe the most of any airline operating with the 787. Boeing will put a team on Air India for damping the press releases on faults. I don't think Boeing purposefully produces those Air India faults.  It suggests an East Coast issue at this time. The SC plant is under a review by audit, and Boeing's own team is doing a plant reshuffling. The suppliers cannot take the SC shocks any longer. Boeing is in there replacing things that don't work with new process stuctures. Suppliers stand-by ready to reload when the mess is cleaned up.

Once the shock phase is over, Boeing and its suppliers can get on with the awe phase and a good road trip with its customers.