Airframer's engineers visit twinjet production partners in Japan and Italy to address bottleneck in supply chain

Boeing is taking direct action to address potential slips in the 787 production effort by sending engineering and manufacturing assistance to Italy's Alenia Aeronautica and the three Japanese partners on the programme, to aid their structural work for the aircraft.

Between them, Alenia and Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) produce a large part of the 787's structure. Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney says that the airframer is putting resources at all four manufacturers to mitigate scheduling and technical risk.

"I think we've made good progress on them [the four companies], and obviously there are flare-ups in the others [suppliers] from time to time that we address quickly," says McNerney.

He notes, however, that "all of the investments we have made to date, and foresee making at this time, are within the research and development estimates we have provided in our guidance".

Addressing a bottleneck in the supply chain, McNerney says that for "Mitsubishi and Alenia specifically, [we're] adding a lot of our resources to supplement theirs to get them through the knothole, and both are making some good progress". He adds that while building an aircraft is "an 'oh my God' exercise", suppliers need to "recognise problems early, over-resource the issue and keep a culture of co-operation moving forward with you and your partner".

McNerney recently visited MHI and notes that while the progress is "good", he warns that "we're not totally out of the woods yet".

Some 787 work has travelled from Japan to Charleston, South Carolina where Global Aeronautica, a 50/50 joint venture between Alenia North America and Vought Aircraft, is producing 787 fuselage sections. McNerney believes this is a positive thing as "the work is spread out a little bit". He says most of Boeing's supplier contracts "leave room for accommodation when more or less work happens than anticipated", and that the manufacturer is having "robust" discussions about this with partners.

Boeing, meanwhile, is "by and large happy" with its 787 systems partners. "There are some a little behind schedule. But most of the work is centred on the structure side in terms of our co-operative effort," says McNerney. He says he is "feeling comfortable" about the weight-reduction effort.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) has become the first operator to specifiy Panasonic Avionics' new eX2 in-flight entertainment system (IFE) on the 787. The Japanese carrier has agreed to equip "several aircraft" with the system.

Source: Flight International