Boeing starts assembly of 787 Dreamliner

I read today that Boeing started production of the much anticipated 787 Dreamliner.

Many of my fellow blogging friends have previously commented on the method by which Boeing is manufacturing this monster of an airplane.  With this said, I don’t want to copy cat them and pummel Boeing for nonsense like this:

Boeing has outsourced most of the 787’s manufacturing to firms in Japan, Italy, South Carolina and elsewhere, while the company itself is concentrating on putting the plane together at its cavernous main facility in Everett, near Seattle.

The main body of the plane will arrive at Boeing’s assembly plant in six large pieces where they will be joined together within a hulking structure called the “MOATT” — mother of all tool towers — in a process its employees call the “big bang.”

The thing that bugs me the most is how the term Lean is being thrown around describing this obvious outsourcing frenzy.  OK, maybe I am copy catting and saying the same things as previous bloggers but I am now asking the nice people that work in this industry to please explain how this is Lean?  I have not worked in this industry so perhaps I am simply missing something.

I am sure people from Boeing are sick of being compared to Toyota.  Fair enough.  But please explain what the advantages are of having a supplier in JAPAN make a critical piece of your product only to have to fly this semi finished good across the ocean to Seatttle to get snapped together? Just ask Walmart how all these over seas supply chain tactics are working out.

As talented as a company like Boeing is I find it hard to believe they cannot build these subassemblies in Seattle, or close to Seattle making this whole process far more streamlined and robust.  Not to mention far less risky.

I sincerely hope Boeing succeeds and proves all of the doubters (including me) wrong.  American industry needs a win since we have not had many as of late.  I just hope we don’t have a repeat of what Airbus went through with their A380.

But I have a bad feeling about this one… especially when I read the following words from Scott Strode, Boeing vice president of airplane development and production on the 787 program:

When asked by reporters what worries him the most about the 787, Boeing’s Strode said “time.”

These do not sound like the words of a confident man. Rather they sound like a politician preparing for some slippery debating and possible explaining once things go wrong.

5 Comments

  1. mpease

    May 22, 2007 - 3:37 pm

    If you think about what goes on in the automotive industry, what they are planning is very similar only on a LARGER SCALE.

  2. Matt Meyers

    May 22, 2007 - 3:40 pm

    In Boeing’s case, the advantage of having a critical supplier in Japan (and many other country) has to do with politics and spreading the money around, especially if they hope to sell such an expensive item to people in that country. In this case, I could argue that Boeing is giving their foreign customers what they want: jobs for their manufacturing industry, and high quality commercial planes.

  3. Kerri

    December 3, 2007 - 8:04 pm

    Boeing is outsourcing to countries such as Japan and Italy for these parts for several reasons. First of all, by having the composite fuselage sections constructed in one piece and shipped to Everett, these pieces save 5 days worth of assembly in comparison to an aluminum fuselage due to the material properties and piece sizes. The reason they have outsourced to other countries is due to the fact that these countries have perfected the manufacturing of these parts, and it is essential that they are properly built. Also, by comparing Boeing to Wal-Mart is absolutely absurd. Wal-Mart is bringing in cheap lead-paint coated toys made in sweatshops with child laborers, while Boeing is searching for the leading composite manufacturing industries for both profit and safety reasons. The 787 takes a total of 2 days to assemble in comparison to the 7 days of an aluminum aircraft, so this “monster” of a plane will be assembled in a much leaner fashion than previous aircraft.