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Boeing considers re-centralising after 787 problems: Bair

Boeing’s former head of the 787 programme, Mike Bair, says the company would favour a centralised manufacturing operation for its next airframe, and steer away from the widely-distributed supply base which, he says, has generated problems in the 787’s development.

Bair, now vice-president business strategy and marketing for Commercial Airplanesm, concedes that the company placed too much faith in the ability of certain 787 suppliers by tasking them to design aircraft parts as well as manufacture them, rather than simply requesting that they build a pre-designed section.

In a speech to a Snohomish County business audience in Everett yesterday Bair said these suppliers – whom he declined to identify – were either unable to perform the work or failed to meet the required standard.

“Some of them proved incapable of doing it,” he said, and added: “Some of these guys we won’t use again.”

In his speech, reported by the Seattle-region press, Bair said the experience had led Boeing to consider changing its supply method. In some cases this could mean returning to the practice of assigning manufacture of ready-designed parts to avoid having to perform clean-up work on the Everett assembly line.

“That whole production system [in Everett] is built for 1,200 pieces,” says Bair. “We threw 30,000 at it.”

He also suggests that a manufacturing base which is less far-flung would enable the construction process to run more efficiently. The rethink could have implications for Boeing’s next project, expected to be a 737 successor.

“The right way to do this would be to have all those big parts across the street, so you could just roll them in,” says Bair. “We’ll see on the next airplane programmes whether we can accomplish something like that.”

Bair points out that such a centralised operation would not necessarily have to be located in Washington state but declines to indicate possible alternative sites.

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