Over the remaining few days of December various supply chain teams will be hard at work supporting end-of-year shipment and revenue milestones. Most supply chain teams are aware that completing key milestones, whether financial, business or management focused, are critically important for compensation and career considerations.

In many cases, singular parts or component assemblies can likely be a cause for multiple end-item shipment delays. We are fairly confident that many of our readers residing in manufacturing, retail or service supply chains can well relate to this situation.

Thus, we were not at all surprised to have run across a Bloomberg published article indicating that Boeing and Airbus production and supply chain teams are working to ensure that 2014 end-of-year and program production and shipment milestone targets are fulfilled.  The December challenge stems from France based Zodiac Aerospace, a supplier of upscale lie-flat airline seats.  Certain deliveries for both the new Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner have requirements for the luxury seats which according to Bloomberg, can cost upwards of $200,000 each because of expensive finishes and complex mechanics. They are described as the “Ferrari” of airline seats.  This author appreciates that analogy.

For Zodiac Aerospace, a month-long labor stoppage within a Texas production facility that ended in late October coupled with backlogged engineering teams working with airlines for final seat design approvals have led up to the current challenges. The supplier is attempting to resolve all late deliveries and return to a normal schedule by mid-2015, but as is often the case, planning teams have been working to move deliveries of other new aircraft that can be completed to December customer delivery.  The article cites American Airlines as an example, who now expects to take delivery of its initial 787 during Q1-2015 rather than this month. American also needs to secure FAA approval to utilize these innovative seats within its new 787 fleet.

The 2014 shipment milestone for the Boeing 787 is 110 aircraft. Airbus encountered a sudden and unexpected delay in delivery of the first A350 to launch customer Qatar Airways because of an unexplained reason. Commercial aerospace supply chain and S&OP teams are thus behind the scenes and hard at work resolving last-minute snafus while working with various customers to move-up or re-schedule deliveries.

When the stakes are high, the individuals and teams that maneuver the various moving parts of the supply chain do matter. While technology can provide helpful tools, in the end, it’s the brainpower, creativity and tenacity of individuals that deliver the bacon.

No doubt all will done to insure December milestones are accomplished.

We share a wise holiday and New Year’s resolution- express your thanks to the planning, execution, procurement and product management professionals that are often called upon to be the last-minute enablers of customer fulfillment.

Bob Ferrari