Current 787 plan is "achievable," McNerney tells Boeing workers
Boeing Chief Executive and Chairman Jim McNerney told employees Monday that the innovative manufacturing model for the globally built 787...
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
Boeing Chief Executive and Chairman Jim McNerney told employees Monday that the innovative manufacturing model for the globally built 787 Dreamliner crossed the line from leading-edge into "bleeding-edge."
But after a tour of the 787 assembly line in Everett last week and detailed briefings from program chief Pat Shanahan, McNerney said he believes Boeing can staunch the bleeding and stick to the new schedule laid out earlier this month.
McNerney's message to all employees, posted on Boeing's internal Web site, came two days before he must give a public update on the plane, when the company reports first-quarter earnings Wednesday.
Less than two weeks ago, Boeing announced a third major program delay that leaves the first 787 deliveries some 15 months later than originally intended and envisions a much slower ramp-up in production.
"It's an achievable, high-confidence plan," McNerney's message said. "We've taken a more conservative approach to setting our milestones, based on our experience to date and the idea that being wrong yet again would be more of a burden to our customers than taking a little more time to get it right."
McNerney sought to explain the company's missteps on the new airplane program by pointing to the huge risks attached to such a venture.
"Fundamental, game-changing innovation like that we're pursuing on the 787 usually has a 'bleeding-edge' quality to it — meaning it goes beyond 'leading edge' into a realm where both the risks and the potential returns are high," McNerney said.
He said Boeing's plan for producing the plane with heavy reliance on global suppliers has been a challenge, but he defended it.
"The global-partnership model of the 787 remains a fundamentally sound strategy," McNerney's message said. Still, he acknowledged that "we may have gone a little too far, too fast in a couple of areas."
Local unions have criticized the degree of outsourcing, contending the bottlenecks and parts shortages could have been controlled better if the supply chain had not been strung out around the globe. McNerney's message conceded some errors in the outsourcing plan.
"I expect we'll modify our approach somewhat on future programs," he said, "possibly drawing the lines in different places with regard to what we ask our partners to do, but also sharpening our tools for overseeing overall supply-chain activities."
But his overall message was positive:
"The 787 is going to be a great airplane," McNerney wrote.
"The fundamentals on the program are improving steadily, and the right team is in place to do the job. I expect them to deliver and I believe they will."
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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