FARNBOROUGH: Production lessons learned on 787 – McNerney

Boeing has learned lessons from its ill-fated decision to outsource so much of the 787’s design and production to first-tier suppliers, says chairman and chief executive Jim McNerney.

A near-collapse of Boeing’s production system was one of the factors behind the long hiatus in the Dreamliner programme, between roll-out in July 2007 and entry into service in October 2011.

“The good news is we built the right airplane,” McNerney said in a briefing at the Farnborough air show. “But we drew the line in the wrong place. We’ve redrawn that line. We will be doing more of the manufacturing and engineering [on future programmes in house],” he says.

McNerney also predicted that China will become the first major new competitor to Airbus and Boeing in the narrowbody market. “Exactly what the timing will be, I don’t know,” he says. “They have the capability, a market that can absorb it and the business capability.”

Referring to the rest of the would-be market entrants, including Bombardier and Russia’s United Aircraft, he says: “Beyond that, it’s not clear which of the others will succeed beyond regional jets; probably one of them will. What we have to do is remain the technical leader and always be a generation ahead in terms of capability.”

McNerney, who reaches Boeing’s official retirement age of 65 next month, says he plans to continue in his position as long as the board want him to. “I have no plans to retire,” he says. “My job is to develop the team under me to give the board some options.”

McNerney, who joined Boeing as chief executive in 2005, adds: “I enjoy my job, but I realise that at some point I’ve got to step aside to let the younger generation move up.”