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Tesla’s Revised Master Plan Provides More Product Engineering and Supply Chain Implications

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Last week, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk penned a blog posting that essentially updated the master plan for the company that called for a broader product development thrust into hybrid trucks and buses. This places a far broader emphasis on the firm’s supply chain ramp-up challenges, one with the implication that Tesla will, by our view, have to seriously consider adding to existing final assembly production capacity beyond its current Fremont California facility.Tesla ModelX_Live

The commentary itself not only provides an argument for why the electric car company must merge with SolarCity, but a further expansion of the master plan that includes:

  • Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
  • Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
  • Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
  • Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it

New product offerings were described as a new form of pick-up truck, and beyond the consumer vehicles market, an innovative heavy-duty trucks and high passenger density urban transport vehicle. Regarding the latter, Musk envisions a smaller footprint of urban busses with a transition from the role of individual bus driver to one of fleet manager. Both are noted as in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be available for unveiling next year, and will follow the availability of the more affordable Model 3 currently due in 2017.

Supply Chain Matters previously highlighted efforts of truck maker Nicola Motor Company in developing a Class 8, 2000 horsepower electric powered semi-tractor truck that will be named the Nicola One. This manufacturer has to-date booked 7000 reservations, each accompanied by a $1500 deposit, totaling more than $2.3 billion in cash to secure a reservation for this new vehicle, hence the sense of urgency for Tesla to enter such a market.

To state that the latest master plan is audacious or ambitious is an understatement. It places a far more concentrated focus on whether product development and the supply chain can rise to the challenge in such a short timeframe.

As noted, our last Supply Chain Matters commentary on Tesla concluded that the company remains challenged by supply chain ramp-up issues as it strives to meet aggressive short and long-term production and supply chain needs of existing announced vehicles. Musk has literally accelerated by two years, his goal to have the California final assembly facility output 500,000 vehicles per year. In his latest blog post, Musk once again re-iterated that this will be addressed as a function of engineering:

What really matters to accelerate a sustainable future is being able to scale up production volume as quickly as possible. That is why Tesla engineering has transitioned to focus heavily on designing the machine that makes the machine — turning the factory itself into a product.

The adding of commercial vehicles with more innovative hardware and software designs implies no choice but to accelerate capacity, strategic commodity and supply chain wide resources. Just today, The Wall Street Journal reports (Paid subscription required) that Tesla’s new $5 billion “gigafactory” near Sparks Nevada to produce the combined company’s battery component needs is currently one-sixth of its planned future footprint. Currently, 1000 construction workers are working two shifts per day, seven days per week to prepare for 2017 needs in the output of lithium-ion cells. Primary battery supplier Panasonic admits to the current challenges of finding qualified production workers, and with the addition of even more models of transport vehicles, the scale of the battery plant’s capability become crucial.  But so does final assembly and distribution as well, in an area that is noted for rather expensive real estate and distribution space.

Thus, any experienced or even entry level supply chain and manufacturing professionals that enjoy an environment of fast-paced innovation and creativity in business process and physical supply chain processes best route your resumes to Tesla. We anticipate a razor-like focus that harnesses the fusion of engineering, product development and supply chain management into a kaleidoscope of expansion that will test current norms and thinking.

Bob Ferrari


First-Half 2016 Delivery Performance for Airbus and Boeing Reflect Continued Supply Chain Challenges

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As the commercial aircraft industry moves into the second-half of 2016, it is time for our usual Supply Chain Matters six month industry review of performance. Reflecting on delivery performance thus far, there are continued signs of industry supply chain supply challenges.  Airbus Mobile Alabama Manufacturing Facility

Let’s begin with Airbus which reported the booking of a total of 227 confirmed orders in the first six months of the year. That number may be somewhat understated since at the industry’s recently completed Farnborough Air Show, Airbus achieved bragging rights for announcing orders and commitments for 279 commercial aircraft, more than half originating from a single airline customer, that being AirAsia who ordered 100 A320neos.

 

Airbus recorded the delivery of a total of 298 aircraft in the first-half, which consisted of the following:

  • 160- Single aisle aircraft (Variants of A319, A320, A321)
  • 38- A330’s
  • 27- A350’s
  • 2- A380’s

 

In the above, tell –tale signs of supply disruption are reflected in two key aircraft. There were only 8 completed deliveries of the brand new A320neo, no doubt reflecting the ongoing catch-up in delivery of the brand new Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines.  Airbus had delivered just 5 A320neos in Q1 meaning that just 3 were delivered in Q2. As noted in our prior commentary, nearly a dozen of completed A320neos have been reported as lined-up on factory adjacent runways and parking areas awaiting Pratt to deliver completed engines. The exiting delay is associated with fixing the engine’s cooling design through a combination of software and component modifications.  Pratt engine deliveries were not expected to catch-up until after June and there are continued reports that Pratt’s supply chain remains strained.  The other new engine offering, the new LEAP model from CFM International is expected to be available in the second-half of this year as-well. With a stated target to have a production level of 50 A320neo’s per month by 2017, there is a lot more planning and execution remaining.

A further problematic area acknowledged by Airbus has been supply and bottleneck challenges associated with newest model A350 production, and first-half completion of 27 reflects that ongoing challenge. Supply challenges have been noted as interior seating and structures and Airbus senior management has expressed public frustration regarding ongoing supply glitches.

Turning to Boeing, the aircraft producer reported the booking of a total of 321 orders in the first-half. At the completion of the Farnborough event in July, Boeing was able to announce orders and commitments for 182 aircraft but just 20 actual new firm orders.

Boeing further recorded the delivery of a total of 298 aircraft reflecting its previously announced scaled-down expectations for delivery cadence this year. The breakdown was:

  • 248-737’s
  • 3-    747’s
  • 5- 767’s
  • 51- 777’s
  • 68- 787 Dreamliners

 

In the above, a challenged area remains completed deliveries of Dreamliners although the cadence has improved slightly beyond 10 per month. There is still a long way to go in ramp-up and lots of internal pressures remain since the program remains cash negative until delivery performance dramatically improves.  Both Boeing’s Seattle and South Carolina assembly facilities are now producing completed Dreamliners.

With current order backlogs of nearly ten years for Airbus and over seven years for Boeing at current production cadence levels, both manufacturers have been concentrating on increased production automation and longer-term strategic supplier agreements. In June, key suppliers urged both manufacturers to move cautiously on demand noting that there are definitive restrictions on the ability to ramp-up the industry supply chain to expected volume output cadence.  Another growing concern is the ability of aircraft engine producers to be able to support higher output volumes given the increased technical sophistication of the new generation engines.  Pratt alone is in the midst of managing five different new engine models and with both commercial aircraft dominant manufacturers continuing to book further orders and explore newer model introduction, the pressure builds.

Again, only time will prescribe the course of events in an industry that is clearly reflecting supply chain distress.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2016. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved

 


Another Program Delay for Airbus

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For the commercial aircraft industry and its respective supply chains, a consistent track record of new aircraft development and production release program delays unfortunately remains the same.

To add to its other program woes, Airbus announced this week that initial delivery of its planned A350-1000 model long-range aircraft will slip another year. The initial test flight, originally scheduled for about this time, is now not expected until after September. Indications are that initial deliveries of this new aircraft to launch customer Qatar Airways are not expected until the second-half of 2017.  A350-1000_United

In a statement, Airbus indicated: “.”We have adapted the A350-1000 schedule to ensure we fully satisfy our customers’ requirements for a mature aircraft from day one.” The manufacturer further added that it would put adequate resources in place to achieve program milestones.

According to business media reports, the first three test aircraft are currently in the final assembly stage. From that fact alone, we suspect that delays have more to do with the readiness of the supply chain to be able to scale to initial productions levels. To date, Airbus has reportedly booked 181 orders from 10 airline customers for this new model, the largest long-range aircraft offering for Airbus.

The 1000 model is the longest-fuselage version of Airbus’ new A350 family of wide-body jetliners. With this design and configuration, the aircraft can accommodate a range of from 366-440 passengers, which means lots of seat per plane.  An ongoing constraint in wide-body supply chains has been availability of airline seats in-volume. Powering the A350-1000 will be a higher-thrust Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines from which will allow this largest model to attain even greater levels of fuel efficiency. Newer models of more technologically advanced aircraft engines have had their share of ongoing ramp-up problems as-well.

The program itself has had its ups and downs including in December of 2014, an announcement of a last-minute sudden delay in the initial delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways only to change that two days later. Since that time, the European based aircraft producer has experienced continual delays in its ability to support planned volume production of this model. As noted in a related posting last week, subsequent deliveries of new A350 model aircraft remain impacted due to adequate supply of cabin seating and interior equipment. Plans called for delivery of a total of 50 aircraft in 2016, but Airbus has managed to deliver only 10 so far this year due to the supply delays. There are a reported 40 of this aircraft in various stages of final assembly and Airbus has augmented production with added work stations to get late delivered cabin equipment installed as quickly as possible.

The ongoing tense customer relationship among Airbus and Qatar that dates back to the scheduled initial delivery of the A350 family now takes on more dimensions since Qatar had contracted for initial deliveries of the 1000 model starting this month. No doubt, Qatar’s candid and direct CEO will have the last word regarding this latest delay announcement.

While the latest Airbus program delay was probably motivated by prudence in assuring complete readiness of the supply chain, it does reflect and industry track record of continually underestimating the scope of program and supply chain challenges. With more and more major system components being outsourced to global based suppliers, aerospace supply chains seem to constant underestimate the ramifications and added requirements for increased design and production process coordination with major suppliers. What has not helped is an industry environment where booked orders far exceed available capacity placing more pressure of suppliers to meet aggressive milestones from multiple global manufacturers. Add to that, increased pressures for reduced costs and higher efficiencies and you get the picture of conflicted goals and priorities.

The A350 situation does not currently compare with the ongoing delivery delays with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner program that has now amassed a reported $28 billion in ‘deferred production costs” because of continued multi-year delays in customer deliveries. None the less, the track record of missed program milestones and lack of supply chain readiness continues across most manufacturers.

Bob Ferrari


Tesla Founder Elon Musk Addresses Plan to Revolutionize Factories

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Our last Supply Chain Matters commentary concerning electric automotive manufacturer Tesla highlighted a candid admission of the importance of design for supply chain practices, as well as a new dilemma relative to the need to more dramatically scale its supply chain and manufacturing cadence.  Tesla Model X SUV

Earlier this week, in an address at Tesla’s annual meeting of shareholders, founder and CEO Elon Musk further addressed these challenges including a plan to revolutionize factories. Hearing the passion of Musk and his executive team, we believe that there may be some substance to these efforts, worthy of ongoing monitoring.

In addition to reiterating the fascinating history of Tesla, Musk shared with shareholders various lessons learned along the way. Among them was an admission that the Model X design was over complicated, perhaps too much to accommodate initial production volume needs. “We have great ideas, The smart move would have been to table those for version 2 or version 3.”

He reiterated that going forward, particularly with the new Model 3 design, Tesla teams will have a tighter integration loop among product design and manufacturing.

In his address, Musk indicated Tesla will “completely re-think the factory process.

The last time similar words were communicated was when Tesla developed the strategy to source all of its supply requirements for lithium ion batteries from a massive production facility or “gigafactory” to be located in the United States. The long-term core mission for Tesla has been to build very high performance vehicles that could be affordable for consumers. The core component of an electric vehicle is its batteries. As Musk explained the situation, it was a revelation that the company’s needs for such higher performance batteries would exceed current existing global capacity, so why not build it in the U.S. The other revelation was that most existing battery manufacturing techniques stemmed from consumer electronics companies with different design principles. This, Musk challenged his internal and external supplier teams to literally re-invent the way batteries can be produced including the adoption of more vertically integrated value-chain principles.

On July 29, a grand party is scheduled to celebrate the culmination of such vision in the operational opening of this gigafactory located in northern Nevada.

When addressing the future, Musk repeatedly raised the notions of “physics-first principles” and made the point that his team now realizes that where the greatest potential lies is in designing and building the factory. To that end, he further disclosed that he now no longer has a Tesla office, instead spending the bulk of his time residing on the production floor and observing.

He indicated to shareholders that his team now realizes that in re-thinking the challenge for the ability to support output volumes of 500,000 or more vehicles per year the same principles, “you build the machines that build the machine” apply. In other words, the context is in thinking that the factory is the product, and that you design a factory with similar principles as in designing an advanced computer with many interlinking operating needs.

To that end, Tesla is now calling on existing product design engineers who constantly labor to achieve vehicle performance enhancements, to now turn their attention and efforts into building far more efficient production capability. Musk himself indicated that he is very confident that improvements in a factor 10x can be achieved in these ongoing efforts. Then again, having already amassed 400,000 pre-orders for the newly announced Model 3, there is somewhat a sense of urgency for the need to fulfill these orders in a timely manner.

We at Supply Chain Matters continue to admire the supply chain and manufacturing thinking that exists at Tesla.  This is a company that literally challenged the notions that one could source owned internal manufacturing directly in Silicon Valley. As noted, they challenged existing notions of lithium ion battery design and high volume manufacturing. Similarly, the company challenged the industry norm of established dealer networks and instead has a direct sales and service relationship with its customers.

Tesla is always challenging established thinking and now, has expressed a renewed belief that the supply chain does indeed matter. We expect even more supply chain innovation from this innovation driven organization and would not at all be surprised that during the next five years, Tesla will be cited as one of the top five supply chains.

Readers can view the more than two hour address to shareholders by visiting this Tesla Investors web link.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2016. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


Airbus Aircraft Delivery Cadence Under the Looking Glass

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This week, The Wall Street Journal confirmed what many existing suppliers residing within the Airbus supply chain probably know, that the commercial aerospace firm continues to be challenged in consistency in supply chain customer fulfillment.Airbus Mobile Alabama Manufacturing Facility

The report, Airbus Tackles its Procurement Procrastination Woes, (Paid subscription or complimentary metered view) reports that Airbus executives are trying to end what has become an annual rite, the end-of-year hockey-stick effort to fulfill its annual target for customer airplane deliveries. Noted is that last December, commercial aircraft manufacturing delivered 79 aircraft in a single month representing about 12 percent of its annual total.  However, these all-hands, round-the-clock efforts take an annual toll on manufacturing and supply chain resources, causing the New Year to get started on a muted rate.

Thus far through April, the company has delivered only 177 planes, just 27 percent of its annual committed output volume.  As noted in prior Supply Chain Matters postings, deliveries of the new A320neo model single-aisle aircraft have shifted to June to allow engine provider Pratt and Whitney more time to correct some last-minute design and production issues. Additionally, the WSJ indicates that only four of the brand new A350 long-range jets have been delivered in the first quarter amidst supplier problems.

The company’s COO of commercial aircraft acknowledged to the WSJ the ongoing frustration and that: “we need to do better.” The report further indicates that the company is exploring further means to change the way airplanes are manufactured in a more predictable manner, language that often translate to additional manufacturing automation.

Both Airbus and rival Boeing face very aggressive supply chain and final manufacturing ramp-up targets over the next 3-4 years in order to meet both customer delivery expectations and aircraft program cash-flow milestones. At the end of April, Airbus reported net cash outflows of $3.37 billion largely as a result of delayed aircraft deliveries.  In many cases, suppliers are not paid until finished aircraft are delivered to customers. Boeing is not immune to same challenges, having recently announced a series of significant job cuts and additional cost reduction initiatives.

Commercial aircraft supply chains thus remain in this unique quandary- upwards of 8-10 years of customer order backlog, but at the same time, enormous and continually building challenges in the ability to meet unprecedented supply chain and manufacturing output cadence.

Truly unique with its own set of dynamic challenges.


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