Boeing CEO sees need for supply chain modifications for future airliners

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney today sent a message to all Boeing employees that re-affirms support for the 787 global supply chain model, but accepts that modifications may be necessary for future airliners.

Entitled “Time to deliver on the 787,” the memorandum was obtained by FlightBlogger.

“The global-partnership model of the 787 remains a fundamentally sound strategy. It makes sense to utilize technology and technical talent from around the world. It makes sense to be involved with the industrial bases of countries that also support big customers of ours.” McNerney wrote.

“But we may have gone a little too far, too fast in a couple of areas,” he added. “I expect we’ll modify our approach somewhat on future programs—possibly drawing the lines in different places with regard to what we ask our partners to do, but also sharpening our tools for overseeing overall supply chain activities.”

McNerney’s comments echo statements by former 787 Vice President and General Manager Mike Bair made back in October 2007 regarding the need for changes in the supply chain model that would be used on future programs.

Though McNerney did not go as far as Bair in suggesting the possibility of an assembly ‘supersite’ for production of Boeing’s next all new airliner, both acknowledge the need for changing the current model to avoid the supply chain problems faced on the 787 program.

McNerney recounted his visit last week to the assembly line to check on the progress of 787 production.

“I walked away encouraged by the significant strides that the team has made in completing traveled work and unexpected rework on Airplane #1 and the two structural test airplanes. Airplane #2, and the sections of Airplane #3 that recently arrived, demonstrate that the condition of the assemblies built by our structural partners is improving noticeably with each successive unit. And that is vitally important for getting us back to where we are doing only the work we originally planned to do in our own factory.

“During the visit, I could feel the energy and enthusiasm of the Boeing people working on the airplanes–and there were a lot more of them compared to my visit just a few weeks ago. That’s a key indicator that the bottlenecks that stalled our progress are beginning to be removed.”

McNerney closes his memo with a challenge to the workforce of 160,000 employees:

“And speaking of delivering, we all need to deliver–to keep executing well and consistently on our own work, and improving our collective productivity…In addressing the 787 program’s needs, we cannot let any of our other programs suffer or slip. We all have a job to do, and I’m asking you to keep doing yours to the best of your ability; keep finding ways to improve; and help keep Boeing on the right track.”

READ THE COMPLETE MEMO

UPDATE 3:22 PM: The post was altered to remove the word exclusive from the headline. The Seattle Times authored a story about McNerney’s message to Boeing employees which was developed from the memo which they had obtained as well. As to not present Mr. McNerney’s statements out of context, the entire text of the memorandum will still be available exclusively at FlightBlogger.

5 Responses to Boeing CEO sees need for supply chain modifications for future airliners

  1. Andrew Goetsch April 22, 2008 at 7:37 am #

    It will be interesting to see if Boeing decides to post quality control inspectors at their major partner’s sites. I always had trouble believing that they’d just trust the incoming sections to be perfect without verifying quality themselves.

  2. RobH April 22, 2008 at 9:56 am #

    Mr. McNerney could have boosted morale by acknowledging that the rush for the pretty roll-out date (7-8-7) was hasty and didn’t help things at all (hey, at least some form of contrition). Hopefully Hangar Queen #1 will see the light of day soon and they can start to recreate the ‘lean manufacturing’ process they intended. The process will eventually work as planned but, whew, what a mess.

  3. John S. April 22, 2008 at 1:21 pm #

    “and the sections of Airplane #3 that recently arrived, demonstrate that the condition of the assemblies built by our structural partners is improving noticeably with each successive unit.”

    If Airplane #1 is clogging the front of the three airframe assembly line, why even deliver components for flight example #3 until they are completely stuffed?

  4. Ed April 22, 2008 at 5:25 pm #

    Em, How many of the major subcontractors on the 787 has Boeing not worked with on the 767 and/or 777?

  5. Jon Ostrower/FlightBlogger April 23, 2008 at 6:04 am #

    Would the author of the previous comment please contact me at his or her earliest conveinence at flightblogger (at) gmail (dot) com?

    Thanks,

    Jon