|Quoting PolymerPlane (Reply 9):|
What surprises me most is that Boeing actually asked the suppliers to design the parts for them. I do not think this is a wise idea. It probably would have been better for them and the 787 project to have Boeing design the whole thing and have other people to manufacture it for them. I think it's a really different ball game with designing and just manufacturing. Boeing's expertise is in designing the airplane, it should not have been outsourced.
They have been doing this for years. The 777, 767, and 747 all have supplier's employees that sit at Boeing desks and do a major part of the design. To get the best designer, its often best to use the supplier's engineers. Who knows the parts better than them. And using them also means that you get the best person to design the job and then don't have to pay them after the work is done and you don't need them anymore. Its not the best thing to have Boeing design everything and the manufacturers just build it. You get a better design this way.
As far as the outsourcing/union issues, too bad it will be way too tempting to the conspiracy theory advocates to turn away from, look at the scripted Apollo landing theories that won't die. But the truth of the matter was that it was done for cost control and the economics of the airplane. It had to cost 20% less to buy. You can write a contract and pay a known amount for only the pieces that you need. That gives a known overall cost to buy. Hire a bunch of people to work at Everett and they still have to be paid even if there isn't work to do. Add in the overhead costs like medical, retirement, sick leave, etc and its a hard cost to manage as it variable, mostly upwards vs the non variable cost of buying a wing from a partner. Also, given the fact that the partners shared in the development costs, those being non recurring and up front, Boeing doesn' t have to foot the financial costs, like borrowing funds, paying "today" money to build manufacturing equipment, etc, that entails. They pay for those costs on a "delivered piece" basis which is better for the economics of the airplane. If you look at it from a financial standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to use that strategy. If the unions could have matched that economic set of financials, they would have gotten the work. The unions had a chance to bid on the work and their numbers weren't within the parameters that had been set for a winning bid, i.e the 20% drop in capital costs.
I will say, and I can't really say much more, that if you look at Bair's statements, you will read that he says "supply chain" and that means parts, fasteners not being the only ones involved. The way that parts were handled, or mishandled and not tracked, is a major problem. If you want to take the time, you can read back thru previous news articles and see who was tasked for parts management. You might find that they are not doing that job today. Not living up to glossy presentations when they were awarded the contract and not being able to do the job will get you dropped from the team, that's just a normal clause in any contract.
This airplane's management and assembly strategy was definitely flawed, but not fatally. It will get built, its not that far off from getting done and back on track. You don't see any airlines cancelling orders. And more importantly I think, is that there isn't too much criticism of the delay from the airlines. They have representatives that are on site and know the full status of the 787. They will be a good monitor of what is going on. If they aren't too upset, not cancelling any orders, being willing to absorb the delay, that says a lot.