The epic Dreamliner project instituted by Boeing changed the way many businesses look at supply chain management permanently. Although Boeing recorded several glaring problems, such as a 3-year delay in delivery of their first aircraft, the changes to their manufacturing and delivery process have fundamentally changed the future operations of their business for the better.
From the outset, the Dreamliner eschewed the traditional engineering goal of greater speed in favour of increased efficiency and economy. The lynchpin of this design was to be the use of carbon reinforced plastic composite materials for nearly 50% of the aeroplane, including the wing and fuselage.
As good as the idea was however, Boeing lacked the skills and equipment required for creating carbon composite components, fundamental to the success of the Dreamliner. The manufacturing of these parts was therefore outsourced to contractors who had the requisite abilities.
This shift to outsourced component construction required a paradigm shift in the Boeing supply chain and the way it was managed. To allow for free data interchange between supply chain members, Boeing implemented a ‘collaboration hub’ that kept stakeholders fully informed of manufacturing progress.
As the project progressed, the contractors encountered a number of problems which delayed the project as a whole and required direct intervention by Boeing. As roles were adjusted and responsibilities shifted around the supply chain, the implementation of the collaboration began to prove its worth by providing a single point of reference for every stakeholder. Production information was available in real time allowing for tweaks and balances at each supplier (of whom there were over 50).
Boeing took the brave step of starting a project which they themselves could not complete, but choosing a supply chain management system which would not only underpin the project, but adjust according to circumstances. Applying this scenario to your own business, how could a radical supply chain alteration benefit you? Is your current supply chain management system flexible enough to cope?