As we have stated previously on the Celtrino blog, the lessons learned by Boeing in the construction of their revolutionary new airliner are also lessons which can be learned by others. The Dreamliner is an incredible feat of aeronautical engineering, but the supply chain management infrastructure behind it is equally impressive. In fact, both the technical and supply chain aspects have revolutionised the aircraft construction industry.
The Dreamliner has been designed for maximum fuel efficiency and passenger comfort using revolutionary materials and fabrication methods. Perhaps of greater interest to businesses outside the aeronautical industry is the outsourcing of Boeing’s core operations and the infrastructure required to support this paradigm shift.
As we have said in previous posts, Boeing’s new supply chain required tighter integration with contractors coupled with a new software platform underpinning the chain to facilitate efficient data interchange. Boeing shifted the entire focus of their business outward, taking note of their customers’ customers needs, assisting suppliers with inventory and manufacture problems and generally keeping the supply chain moving. Boeing moved away from pure aeroplane construction and took a more management-focused role, bringing a number of disparate contractors and production processes together in the creation of a new airliner.
The new outward-looking perspective did not turn Boeing into a service company, nor was it a negative action. By monitoring, reporting and assisting suppliers, Boeing was able to build exactly what they wanted, how they wanted. The Dreamliner arrived in several large parts which required final construction on site at Boeing, a process which takes just three days.
Despite encountering a number of processes during the project, Boeing proved not only that this change in business focus could work, but also that their supply chain management system was capable of disseminating information in a timely manner to all interested parties. In doing this, Boeing also fundamentally changed the way that their competitors regard the aircraft assembly process and underlying management systems.
The Dreamliner project was neither smooth nor easy, but Boeing clearly demonstrate that looking after your suppliers is of equal value to looking after your own business’ needs.