Questions about Boeing's revolutionary decentralised 787 production strategy intensified after the programme's ousted leader publicly disavowed distributed manufacturing in general and promised to banish certain suppliers.
The supply chain breakdowns that hobbled 787 assembly, stretching the delivery schedule by six months, can be avoided on future programmes by concentrating all major manufacturing operations at a hub, former 787 vice-president and general manager Mike Bair said in a prepared speech reported by local press.
Boeing also learned that certain key suppliers were not prepared for the integrator-level responsibilities that are the hallmark of the 787's distributed supply chain strategy, Bair said, reportedly adding that these suppliers will be banned from such work in the future.
Bair's strident remarks, coming less than three weeks after his removal, immediately created speculation that Boeing was poised to shake up the 787 supply chain.
Spirit Aerosystems chief executive Jeff Turner, who presented the company's third quarter earnings the following day, faced questions from analysts about whether he would seek to capture market share from the 787's weaker performers.
"We are not focused on a share-grab at this point. We are focused on a successful airplane," Turner replied, adding: "Our basic philosophy is we want all the partners on this airplane to be successful because this is a challenging project."
The Wichita-based Spirit, a former Boeing business unit, has been singled out by Boeing's executives as a competent performer. But Vought Aircraft Industries, which is teamed with Alenia Aeronautica on some assembly work, removed its top 787 programme executive in June amid reports of performance issues.
Boeing has cited the amount of travelled work reaching the final assembly at Everett - combined with shortages of fasteners and flight-control software - as the main culprits driving the six-month delay.
Pat Shanahan, Boeing's newly appointed general manager and vice-president for 787, is reviewing the programme's schedule and all aspects of its strategy. He is expected to report his findings publicly for the first time at the next scheduled programme update on 5 December.
Although Boeing has so far left the programme's basic structure intact, the company has already moved earlier this summer to centralise the 787's widely distributed purchasing system for parts and materials.
Facing industry-wide parts shortages, major component suppliers had compounded the problem by hoarding inventories and order backlogs for certain items, even if another supplier was unable to obtain any. Boeing intervened to create a new system that rationed limited parts to certain suppliers based on need.
Spirit's Turner noted, however, that some parts and systems continue to arrive in the manufacturing system too late.
"Probably wiring is, as it always is, the final one to fall in place," Turner said. But he added optimistically: "When we get things, it all fits into place".