I’ve held off ranting on Boeing for many weeks, but a recent news article on the company pushed me over the edge… again. We’ve talked a lot about Boeing over the last few years, from deriding the supply chain convolutions that created the need for Rube Goldberg contraptions like the Dreamlifter to the downsides of transferring knowledge to suppliers that may become competitors. Alas their woes continue.
What statement raised my ire?
He [Pat Shanahan, general manager of the 787 program] said the program is making steady progress but there are still a number of pieces to put into place, comparing the process to a "giant game of whack-a-mole."
Apparently the company known for incredibly detailed program management has had to resort to basic chaos control. What the heck is going on? Surprise surprise, it has something to do with the convoluted supply chain Boeing created.
The 787 program has been delayed three times as Chicago-based Boeing struggled with supply-chain difficulties, a shortage of parts and other problems, pushing back first delivery by about 14 months.
As just one example,
Earlier this month, the fuselage of the fourth 787 test plane was damaged when a worker at key supplier Alenia North America reportedly used the wrong fasteners. The aircraft is now expected to arrive in Everett, Wash., for final assembly two to three weeks later than planned.
A fellow lean blogger reminded me earlier this week of the simulation almost every lean newbie goes through during the first week of training: the airplane game. Remember the game? You build simple airplanes out of Lego, paper, or popsicle sticks. First there’s the push-batch simulation, then a large batch kanban, then a true pull one piece flow kanban. By the end you understand that, although counterintuitive, one piece flow really is far more productive, efficient, and higher quality than push-batch.
But what else did you learn? That it is very important for each operation to be close to the previous and next operations to minimize transportation and WIP while improving communication and coordination. We all learned that by sitting around a conference room table.
Pretty ironic that it’s called the "airplane game." Perhaps Boeing should have played it… before spreading their suppliers… and knowledge… to the four corners of the globe instead of nearby Everett.