In January of 2013, The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a thorough formal review of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft after a series of incidents, including electrical fire incidents in both Boston and Japan occurred. Supply Chain Matters readers are well aware that the 787 has been the subject of multiple commentaries on this blog.

This week, the FAA finally released the results of that study.      

Boeing 787 first ship from South Carolina facility

Source: Boeing Website

 

The review team consisted of a team of engineers and inspectors from both the FAA and Boeing.  The report indicates that the 787 is soundly designed and that processes exist to identify and correct manufacturing issues. Media coverage has cited a specific report statement: “The global fleet’s reliability during the first 16 months of service was comparable to previous new Boeing models.” We suppose you can interpret that statement in a number of ways but from our lens, it does not seem to reference an industry-wide benchmark of reliability metrics for newly introduced aircraft.

Several recommendations and some concerns were also put forward in this report. The FAA was cited for relying too much on Boeing to ensure the safety of the 787 design and manufacturing processes. The Wall Street Journal reported that Boeing senior executives acknowledged that they lost some control of the manufacturing process because of the nature of the global supply chain, and placing too much reliance on suppliers for the overall quality of 787 components and systems.  The most comprehensive coverage we found was a report filed by The Seattle Times which provides broader insights from the FAA report. One statement cited was: “in some cases complete and accurate design requirements did not flow down from Boeing to its primary supplier and then to involved subtier suppliers” resulting in “communication and verification issues along the supply chain.” Boeing’s sometimes ambiguity in stating what was required of partners led suppliers to believe that they had met requirements.

From our lens, that translates to a lack of continuous two-way information linkages from design and product management to manufacturing and value-chain partners.

Another recommendation reported is that the FAA must step-up oversight of foreign and “high-risk” subcontractor facilities to insure that suppliers are fully aware of their responsibilities. 

Hmm… are all the above statements consistent with a theme of throwing suppliers “under the bus”?

Supply Chain Matters has not as yet had the opportunity to dive into the FAA report and we will reserve any other direct observations or viewpoints until we can do so.  However, there seems to be a very consistent pattern from Boeing regarding overall supplier management.

The detailed report can be downloaded from this FAA web link.

We welcome comments from readers residing in multiple tiers of aerospace supply chains on how they perceive these recommendations.

Bob Ferrari