Monday, August 18, 2014

The Boeing Big Picture

Boeing Aircraft Company has to grasp a view of the big picture and keep itself within its vision. What actually drives the company on a daily basis is the minutia every day and each day. The nuts and bolts stuff, Where can we get more titanium, who is watching engine development this week? What do we do with Charleston's production line this week?

All are valid questions, but do not reach the level of Big Picture Status, even though issues like those just mentioned could deliver a a wallop to the Big Picture, and knock it out of its frame. An unsettling thought is the minutia pulling down the aircraft strategy. The second consideration are your competitors in this Big Picture Strategy.

  • Big Picture Vision
  • Big Picture Strategy
  • Big Picture Execution
Those three bullet points overlap each other in the press reports, stock-holders meetings and from competitor's quips. The vision is very important, since it encapsulates its own belief system as valid. The Boeing belief back in 2004, reflects that Boeing ignored its customers, as Airbus made a line of aircraft consistently modern while Boeing had a Hodge-Page group of aircraft uniquely different from one to another even though modern.

The vision became a realization that Boeing had advance technology and it didn't apply it consistently with its family of aircraft. The 737 had some really good stuff but greatly different than the 777 family of aircraft. The 747-400 was on its own team while the 757 had its own skinny from the design shop. It was hot looking, while the 767 just lumbered around during the next 12 years. No aircraft type was really into the other type, so a relationship could not start.

In 2004 Boeing got the memo which demanded, advised and instructed, it needed "a sea change" from airline types in its DIY groups. That change in vision was it needed desperately, a common denominator which would become the well spring of success. A quantum leap far and above anything flying since the Wright Brothers. If we build this, our vision quests is foundational. Yes the 737 is shaping up, and the 777 is the best thing going, but Boeing needed to incorporate its aircraft with all encompassing technology available from its hallowed research centers. Airbus has a steady hand in this and "we" (Boeing) failed to  notice. It is incumbent for Boeing to construct from its central core of excellence both down line, and up line from a high level common denominator. Namely, the denominator is the all plastic techno 787. That is Boeing's starting point. It's finishing  is yet to be written or achieved until it pervades all its models.

The strategy is the second level of the Big Picture points. The competitors were not planning on competing with anything which they deemed, "can't be done", AKA, 787. Boeing was caught calling BS,  it turned back to the vision, team and went to work with more earnest for the endeavor. Airbus just dropped its jaw at that point, and then retreated back into its design center with the A-350 for a knock-off, known as the airplane that shouldn't be built, as they referred to it when Boeing's initial 787 announcement. The Airbus first go around on the drafting board ended Dead On Arrival. Airbus needed to rethink its Boeing challenge. Change measurements and amenities. Change battery and electrical systems. Airbus needs to do what they do best from ten years ago, but add plastic.

Amid all the European bluster and prosperous insinuation, Boeing ran stressed, by making announcements three years too early during 2007. They should have had its collective act together and manned up with the announcement that, "we had assemble the first all CRFP large body aircraft in history on July 8, 2007. Now Boeing is going to install the most complex and technically advanced system ever found in any airplane of any kind. "This is our moon shot", and it will fly when everything is ready during the next many months/years." Boeing needed to lower anticipation on an all new technology with normal expectations, instead they announced three years early and built it built it three years late. The Boeing strategy fell out of line, being too eager, and they have never recovered its face on that issue. As today every news reference starts out with the "three years late" opening. The Big Picture Strategy got a black eye on bullet number two. But what is cool is the Big Picture Vision Shift has flummoxed Airbus with making a fractured family of aircraft line. Where Boeing's consolidation of its family of aircraft has sealed off the market with Boeing continuity.

The last critical key is pointed out as execution. Many things can go wrong with a program and has gone wrong with Boeing's plan. One thing to note, is that Boeing was not spending capital unnecessarily. Insuring the over-arching vision of catching, passing and exceeding its competitors. Part of program execution is the ever important implementation bench marks. Boeing could have not have produced or delivered 10 787's a month, without a careful implementation plan, a contingency plan B or a continuous effort of overcoming natural or human limits within the grand scheme of the 787. The main thing is the vision change for Boeing, since 2004 allows for whatever it takes to make it right has enabled the flying aircraft to perform as promised. The back-up systems and contingency programs found on board has made the 787 doable. Boeing's due-diligence with its vision commitment of going beyond the competitor's, has paid a dividend for the 787, as functional problems are mitigated through built-in safety considerations. The plane that is implemented continues to execute its mission as promised. All the nit-picking and annoying glitching is mostly white noise as parts are replaced, systems reprogrammed, and one off incidences are recovered. A new technology and new airplane are actually doing what new airplanes do, they sort out while in service making it whole.