Mike Bair did not need to say a word. The aviation world is well aware by now
that Boeing muffed the job of assigning and distributing tasks for building the
787. Aircraft number one, originally due to fly in August, is now a tangible
memorial to its folly, as Boeing's workers in Everett labour to identify and fix
the errors of their own suppliers.
But Bair spoke out anyway, less than three weeks after he lost his job as
head of Boeing's 787 team. That "team" apparently includes a handful of
incompetent members that Boeing will never work with again, or so Bair
reportedly told a Snohomish county business group on 31 October. Nor will Boeing
ever choose to disperse production work around the globe, connected only by
three 747s ferrying sections, parts and crews between the sites.
The supply-chain network for the next all-new Boeing airframe will be
structured like a Toyota plant, with all the suppliers located within walking
distance of the final assembly centre, Bair predicts, coyly suggesting that such
a hub could be located anywhere.
Boeing has clearly been searching for lessons from the debacle. The question
now is whether its search, apparently complete, has drawn the right
Bair speaks like a man with an axe to grind, and perhaps he has reason. His
comments imply he did not fail to execute the plan the plan was unexecutable as
the model was flawed and some modellers were failures.
Such biting remarks prompted some industry observers to wonder if Boeing had
other business interests involved, as the company clearly authorised Bair, who
remains on payroll, to candidly speak his mind.
After all, isn't the Northrop Grumman supply chain approach for the KC-30
similar to the 787's distributed production strategy? And is Boeing's KC-767 bid
based on the opposite of that approach, with nearly all production and assembly
work divided between Everett, Washington, and Wichita, Kansas?
It is dangerous to take Bair's overall point too far. Boeing's strategy for
dispersing the 787 supply chain was problematic, but the concept of globalised
sourcing is sound. Even if the entire supply chain for its single-aisle
replacement aircraft is located within three miles of downtown Renton, be
assured it will comprise multiple companies from a variety of countries.
For that programme, the challenge will be to manage design, logistics and
assembly in a modern supply chain. If things go wrong, the buck stops at Boeing.
AirSpace - more than just hot air