A hat tip to Mark over at the Lean Blog for sending me a couple articles on one of my favorite subjects, Boeing. But instead of bashing Boeing again, let’s discuss one if its key tier 1 suppliers: Vought.
Vought manufactures the two rearmost fuselage sections and then moves them to a nearby facility that it operates with Italian manufacturer Alenia as Global Aeronautica. There the Vought sections and a fuselage section built in Italy by Alenia are joined with the midwing box, produced in Japan.
I’m gritting my teeth to hold back from commenting on the convoluted supply chain Boeing created. Back to Vought. Earlier this week Boeing announced yet another delay in the 787 Dreamliner, and cited Vought as one of the culprits. This was a little unfair.
The quality of the company’s composite fuselage barrels is superb, Doty said, with sections for a dozen 787s completed. The problem has been obtaining and installing the interior structures, wiring and other components.
Yes, a tier 2 supplier apparently created the delays. How much do you want to bet that if we poked at that supplier, we’d find a tier 3 supplier issue? After all, only a few months ago the first full-scale prototype suffered from a lack of fasteners. For that Purchasing Magazine named Steven Schaffer, Boeing’s Vice President and General Manager of Global Partners, "Supply Chain Manager of the Year." Go figure. But I’ll drag myself back to Vought…
The company has been working hard to improve their operations, which is also helping the division that makes assemblies for the 787.
Vought managers are implementing a "Vought Operating System" modeled on the legendary Toyota manufacturing system. Some Vought managers have visited Toyota plants to see the highly efficient automaker in action. Vought is implementing lean manufacturing practices on many programs as fast as workers can be trained and new tooling and machinery put into place.
The results indicate that this is real lean, not LAME.
Recordable injuries have declined 24 percent companywide from 2006 and 38 percent from 2005. Workplace injuries declined 21 percent at the Dallas plant last year and 30 percent at the Marshall Street plant in Grand Prairie.
Quality has improved sharply. The rate of defects has declined 25 percent companywide from 2006 and 35 percent from 2005. Defects have dropped about 10 percent at the Dallas plant and a dramatic 47 percent at the Marshall Street plant, which builds sections for Boeing airliners.
Inventories of parts and supplies are being used at a 28 percent faster rate, which means the company has less cash tied up in materials and lower costs.
Both the Dallas and Marshall Street plants have made major gains in meeting production and delivery schedules set by Boeing, Gulfstream and other customers.
Companywide, the cost savings from various process improvement programs could approach $12 million a year, with $4 million to $8 million from the Dallas and Grand Prairie plants.
The emphasis on people shows that they even understand the importance and value of people.
The credit, Doty says, goes to Vought employees who responded to the challenges facing the company. "When you look back at these numbers, they restore your faith in one thing: We’ve got great people here. They really want to be world-class," he said. "If you’ve got good, motivated people, which we have, all you have to do is provide good leadership, support and resources."
Perhaps instead of blaming Vought, Boeing should learn something from them.