Boeing makes subtle, major move toward a new aircraft

Beezhold, Terry.jpgBuried in the second-to-last paragraph in an announcement of vice presidential promotions for its chief engineers was a word about Terry Beezhold, who serves as the 787 airplane level integration team (ALIT) leader. Beezhold, effective today, becomes Boeing’s vice president for process, tools and affordability. One particular line in his new job description stands out:

In his new role, Beezhold will work with Engineering, Information Technology,Manufacturing, Airplane Programs and CAS to make sure all Boeing CommercialAirplanes computing processes and tools support the entry into service for the 747Freighter and Intercontinental and 787 airplanes, support the sustaining airplaneprograms and enable the planned rate increases for the 737, 767, and 777 programs.Additionally, Beezhold will work on affordability associated with the non-recurringprocess for future airplane product development. Doing so, he will work closely withLarry Schneider, vice president of Product Development; Mike Bair, vice president ofAdvanced 737 Product Development, and Lars Anderson, vice president of Advanced777 Product Development.

The position is significant as it lays the groundwork establishing the business case for the coming spate of potential development programs, including the stretched 787-10X, 777 upgrade and clean sheet 737 replacement.

Match that description against this 1997 Flight International article about future product development and a new role for one of Boeing’s Master Engineers, Walt Gillette:
One of the initiatives is aimed at creating “faster, cheaper”, processes which would enable Boeing and its suppliers to develop an all-new aircraft at half the cost of current projects. Although Boeing declines to offer any details, Flight International understands that the project’s broad target is a 50% reduction in the 70-month timescale and $7 billion cost of the 777 programme.

Boeing’s name for the project is the Airplane Creation Process Strategy, and it is led by its director, Walt Gillette, who was appointed to the position in January. “We met suppliers a while ago to begin discussing the issue, although we’re not ready to talk about it much externally at the moment,” says Boeing. The Airplane Creation Process Strategy group reports to Harry Arnold, executive vice-president of Boeing Commercial Airplane Group’s define- and aircraft-development section.

Gillette’s work on the ACPS in the late 1990s spawned the 787 program as we know it today, laying the foundation for the aircraft’s business case, which included – broadly – the composite structure, systems architecture and global supply chain. 

The overarching context for this move comes out of Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh’s comments from Investor Day on the plans for developing a supply chain and production system for a 737 replacement:

What we’re really scratching our head on right now, though, is the other thing that you always have to look at when you do an airplane, and that is the production system. How can we take an airplane that’s probably composite, and how do we ramp it up from zero airplanes a month, up to 40, 50 or 60, and how do you do that in a short period of time? And we’ve got a team that’s off working that and working that very hard. 

Right now, the effort has been, for the most part, internal. But what we have to do different? And if this is a composite airplane, how do you do it without autoclaves? How do you reduce the amount of tooling? How can you figure out how you don’t have to drill a lot of holes that you have to fill? I mean, there are lot of things that have to be considered and we have set up a team under Ray Conner and we’re bringing in people that have worked high-rate production in other industries to help us figure out what this manufacturing system would look like. I think if you don’t design the production system in parallel with the airplane, we’ll find – we’ll have difficulty.

No clear indication of the company’s direction, but certainly another step forward.

Photo Credit Boeing

19 Responses to Boeing makes subtle, major move toward a new aircraft

  1. alloycowboy May 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    That’s a great quote Jon!

    “Although Boeing declines to offer any details, Flight International understands that the project’s broad target is a 50% reduction in the 70-month timescale and $7 billion cost of the 777 programme.”

    Opps, Boeing seems to have missed its broad target. Not a problem will just throw some Boeing management magic “Pixie Dust” at it and voilà! Oh wait that still didn’t work and now the airplane is even further delayed.

    It should be pretty obvious by now to everyone that Boeing went in to the 787 program with its head in cloud and with unreal expectations of its own capabilities.

    What is worse is the fact that if Boeing had actually done its home work done a proper analaysis using the Dr.Jan Roskam’s aircraft design books they could have avoided a lot headaches and would not have set such rediculous schedule for the 787 program from the start.

    Hopefully Boeing will not repeat the same mistake on the 737 replacement.

  2. bruce May 28, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    First thing he should do is recommend that the high fliers who approved the 787 outsourcing program be fired. That should save a bundle on the next program.

  3. Guru Josh May 28, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    “the project’s broad target is a 50% reduction in the 70-month timescale and $7 billion cost of the 777 programme.”

    The question always was whether the cost reduction target was relative to the planned NRC of $6 billion or relative to the actual NRC of $12 billion.
    (Mulally is on quote that the 777 in the end cost twice as much as planned while either Gilette or Condit is on quote somewhere that the planned cost was $6bn)

  4. Smokerr May 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    In the fuller test, last part is very intriguing (or makes you want to cry).

    “Beezhold is also tasked with aligning the processes and tools that will support the entry into service of the 747-8 freighter and Intercontinental, 787″

    Shouldn’t that all have been DONE? Sheese

  5. wuzafan May 29, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    from your synopsis, it sounds like a recipe for disaster for anything good to come out of mcboeing for years to come. the ascendancy of mcdouglas schneider , by itself a reason to fear the future of mcboeing, things will continue to be like the 787 process will all of its failings will continue to be the norm.

  6. Smokerr May 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Agrred, for all the Boeing exec comments, it feels/sounds like lip service.

    Its like they really do not get it. Sad. Huge opportunity and promiss.

  7. Dunthat May 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    Once again- power point rangers in charge of costs. No longer a family-

    BTW read “Turbulence” as to how Boeing screwed up last time-or since 1997 by putting ‘ cost’ above all else- and the dawn of the powerpoint age replacing the viewfoil pitches and the ‘ managers charts “.

    Teamwork ? BA has yet to figure out how to reward a team which pits every stovepipe org against others. Tghus we can expect to hear the classical Boeig mantra ” NOT out of MY budget ” and ” I will pay only FOR a way to do something to schedule, and NOT one damm penny for doing it better.”

    Those who do not learn from history, dont learn from history

    Faster, better, cheaper, pick any two.

    Boeing has picked cheaper and faster once again- didn’t learn from 787.

  8. John Peter May 30, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    Not only is the 787 late and way over budget, Boeing even does not have the ownership to crucial technologies. It was said on the investor day that the intellectual property rights belong to the sub suppliers. Bringing design and work in house would then require new investments to get around those patents. Any subcontractor would fight to keep his investment and know-how.

  9. Karl May 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Well, there sure seems to be a lot of experts here. I’m not going to support the Boeing method here, but perhaps what didn’t work was not just the outsourcing oh the 787 per se, but the actual amount of work that went unsupervised. I can only guess that if Boeing’s managers were more in touch with the suppliers, making sure that every piece ordered were done to specs before they got to the Boeing’s factory, the 787 could have been a different story today. after all, how many parts of the 737 are actually built by Boeing?

    Just my thought.

  10. hardwaremister May 31, 2011 at 1:03 pm #


    Would you really outsource the design and manufacture of the wings and wingbox and do a “spec list” instead of keeping them inhouse (at least the design)?

    I can understand that many of the parts have to be outsourced (that’s just a need), but there is a golden rule; Never outsource a process that is part of your core competences.

    Did boeing cross the line? Yes.
    Will mitsubishi profit from what they have learnt and will they be making use of it in future products? Yes.

    Outsourcing the know-how of your competitive edge will not give you an edge in the mid term, but only instant returns.

    Too bad, that as you well noted, boeing did not keep a close enough eye on their suppliers and they will not even reap the short term benefits of this strategy (supposedly low capital expending on a joint partnership).

    Just my thought too ;)

  11. Joe Nobody May 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    John Peter said “…Boeing even does not have the ownership to crucial technologies…” can you give examples of these crucial technologies?

  12. John Peter June 1, 2011 at 5:02 am #

    @Joe: here is the quote from Albaugh published in :
    “One of the unintended consequences of all the outsourcing we did (on the 787) is we paid people to develop intellectual property that they now own,” Albaugh said. If the new airplane is given the green light, he said, “you’ll see a much different approach to outsourcing.”
    Also: “Like Albaugh, McNerney reiterated Boeing will do more work in-house on the new jet than on the Dreamliner and try to protect its expertise in composites technology.” This means that crucial expertise of the Dreamliner is not with Boeing.
    He also confirms what was mentioned above, that the supervision of the outside work was not appropriate: “McNerney said Boeing’s attitude with the 787 had been “outsource it … get rid of the cost of supervising it.”
    “You end up realizing you need more cost to supervise outside factories,” he said. “Unfortunately we paid billions upon billions in the learning process.” I believe therefore, that Boeing is forced to work with the existing suppliers or spend more on developing alternate technologies and production processes for internal production.

  13. Karl June 1, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    @ hardwaremister

    Thanks for your comment and pointing out some of the steps that were taken that Should had not been taken by Boeing as a company. In reality, I don’t get it either how a company that depend so much on its technology edge to keep ahead of the competition give so much of it away to suppliers. I guess that Boeing trust the Japanese more than any other suppliers so that they would let them design and built such an important part of its future as the wings design of its 787 airplanes. But I think is a trend not just at Boeing. Other American companies are doing it too. Even Apple is kinda making everything in China nowadays. It’s really sad.

  14. Frequent Traveller June 1, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    It’s like you pay somebody to saw the branch on which you are poised so in the end you get separated from the tree

  15. hardwaremister June 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm #


    It doesn’t end there.
    What people don’t seem to realize, is that these companies boeing outsourced design and production to, equally outsourced part of their own design/production components to other companies… and guess what, there are many layers in that ;)

    The important thing to have in mind about this, is that this extreme “global” outsourcing does no longer apply to the supply chain, but also to the component revision (design) chain. As John Peter stated above, these technologies’ IP Boeing ended up having to help develop, belong to these design/manufacture partners. This in effect, means that when there is the need to do a modification on a part, you have to do a monster project management effort (communication, budgeting, work allocation, scheduling…) to achieve the final revision of it; coordinating several design/manufacture providers at a different tier.

    I must however admit that most people would be surprised if they knew that the composite pressure bulkhead of the 787 is manufactured by EADS (airbus parent company) utilizing the know-how earned from the A400M(!), which is then installed in the aft fuselage by Vought & Alenia (Texas, Rome).

    What a whacky world!

    All the best,


  16. Neil June 1, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    Did Albaugh ever read the Hart-Smith paper, how can Boeing senior managemant do a “who knew” on this?

  17. Danny GA pilot June 2, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    I wonder what the crucial technologies are? any ideas?

  18. Keith Sketchley June 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    The way to get the job done well (efficiently and quickly produce a quality product) is to get everyone into a mindset of realism and communication.

    On the 787 Boeing said a few years ago that once again they managed to do what they swore never to do again – be finishing development tools while already well into the development process.

    That and many other things are not easy, but can’t do much better get if you aren’t realistic. That doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard and smart to be quicker and more efficient, it does mean that you have to realistically identify risk areas – that’s often a judgement call you have to be able and willing to make, instead of just being cheap and hoping you’ll muddle through. (The English saying “penny wise and pound foolish” comes to mind, but one division of an English supplier acted as though they’d never heard it.)

    Jim Albough himself pointed out in an article in Frontiers magazine that Boeing’s military division had fooled itself about status of the Wedgetail program, which was a fiasco like the 787. IIRC one of his solutions was semi-independent review (such as people from a different division).

    It is always the internal political process that causes the problems. McNerney has publicly said they are reforming, including that treatment of people would be a major criteria for keeping a management job. Boeing started a massive training program to help communication.

    I wish them luck, they’ll need it.

  19. waddie June 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    It seems like Boeing had to learn its previous 86 years of experience all over again on the 787. It’s like they did a “core dump” and forgot all the reasons why they bird dogged suppliers in past programs and just left them to their own devices on thie 787 until they started missing component delivery schedules.
    The execs now say the 787 Program is over cost by billions “but they learned their lessons”. How do they earn such fat bonuses with these admissions and keep their jobs while they are “learning”? There seems to be no down side to these screw ups. What message does that send?
    So much for Harry’s declaration that Boeing is no longer a “family”, they are a “team” and to be on the team, you have to “perform” I don’t see much in the way of what I would describe as desirable “performance”!
    I keep waiting for the Board of Directors to do something about the present executive management but they seem to be non-existent. I guess $20 billion in additional cost is small potatoes to them.

    It’s so sad to watch a company with so much potential, just pi$$ it away due to Condit’s major mistake in the MDC acquistition. That merger should not have retained the same management that ran Douglas Aircraft into the ground and put it in charge of Boeing and then got rid of the folks who put Boeing into the position to make the acquisition in the first place. What a sad, sorry mistake.

    It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Boeing now that they have corporate amnesia regarding their past history.