I have written hundreds of blog posts on just about every angle of lean manufacturing, and my normal routine is to read dozens of articles from publications all over the world just about every day to find worthwhile fodder for each blog post. Having read so many thousands of lean articles, I thought I had seen – or read – it all. Then along comes Boeing, the most schizophrenic lean manufacturer of them all, and lean takes on a whole new absurd dimension.
According to a fellow by the name of Scott Strode at Boeing, this, and two more just like it, is "the foundation of [Boeing’s] lean, global production system":
That’s right, it is an airplane – but not just any airplane. This is a Large Cargo Freighter, which is a modified Boeing 747 and its purpose is to haul stuff from round the globe to Boeing’s assembly plant in Washington. Yep – it’s sole purpose is to serve as an outsourcing powerhouse.
It can be difficult to put an airplane against a backdrop of clouds in the proper perspective. To help you understand the Large Cargo Freighter, it has about the same interior space as this 8,000 square foot Mississippi plantation home.
The purpose is to be able to outsource components, like the wings for the new 787, to places like Asia and Europe. How bad does manufacturing have to be in Everett, Washington to make it a good idea to build three plantations with wings to haul airplane wings from Asia, instead of making them there?
I have high hopes for the new Boeing guy at Ford because Boeing does some pretty good lean stuff, but as this debacle shows, some things they do in the name of lean are almost insane. I sure hope Ford got the guy who is sending teams of Boeing folks to the Lean Accounting Summit, or the guy who provided leadership to the SME/AME/Shingo Prize lean certification effort; and not the guy who decided to call three dedicated outsourcing Large Cargo Freighters the foundation of Boeing’s lean system.