Ever-louder rumblings inside Boeing from Everett and Charleston point to this potential course of action.
Following the October 10th announcement of the six month delay in first delivery of the 787, significant speculation began as to the exact source of the problems.
Though many have been looking for a smoking gun, there are many factors that added up to create the current situation. One piece of the puzzle that has been perpetually been identified as a source of the program’s problems is Texas-based first-tier supplier, Vought Aircraft Industries.
Vought has never been identified by name as the source of the problems, yet it appears that the change in language amongst the top brass at Boeing and Vought points to a cooling relationship which could be setting the stage for a clean extrication in the near future.
Former 787 Program Manager Mike Bair spoke frankly in an address to the Snohomish County Economic Development Council remarking on unidentified suppliers that, “Some of these guys we won’t use again.”
A memo to all 787 program staff from Program Manager Pat Shanahan announced that, “To strengthen the management of the supply chain, Scott Strode, previous vice president of Airplane Definition and Production, will oversee all BCA supplier development activities with Vought Aircraft Industries, with special attention to 787 recovery and production ramp up.
Vought CEO Elmer Doty at his company’s third quarterly earnings report admitted that “I don't think you need rumors to assume we are among the riskiest, if not the riskiest, of the structure producers."
BCA President Scott Carson, who was surprisingly available just days before the 787 update remarked to the Wall Street Journal Friday in regards to Vought and its suppliers, "In addition to oversight, you need insight into what's actually going on in those factories…Had we had adequate insight, we could have helped our suppliers understand the challenges."
So how does Boeing gain that insight?
A buy out of Vought makes the most sense moving forward. It would eliminate the middle-man in what the Wall Street Journal called a “new bureaucratic ladder.” This allows Boeing to more effectively work with its global suppliers by retaking the reins on manufacture and assembly of 787 structures.
Overall, this is not a rejection of the fundamental principles upon which the 787 was built. Without Vought, the 787 is still very much an aircraft program that has a global scope. Reassuming control which was previously outsourced is not a rejection of outsourcing, it’s an acknowledgment that good business is done with good partners – a tenet which has never changed.
An amicable end to a tumultuous relationship allows Vought to walk away from the 787 program with its financial house in order while giving Boeing the best opportunity to meet the only goal that really matters:
Build 109 Dreamliners in the next 751 days.