Boeing, which only a year ago was cruising smoothly through design, development and early manufacturing of its new 787 Dreamliner commercial aircraft, has hit some heavy turbulence. Just months before the first 787 was to roll out off the assembly line at Boeings Everett, Wash., plant, the company said it would be delayed six months due to problems with software integration and supply chain issues.
The Chicago-based aerospace giant—struggling to gear up to fulfill more than 700 orders for the new passenger jet—disappointed investors and customers with the news that the first Dreamliner would be assembled near the end of 2008 instead of midyear. An estimated 30 to 35 Dreamliners originally promised for delivery next year were pushed back to 2009.
The company, which only last September had downplayed its manufacturing challenges, suddenly revealed that even the careful tracking of every aspect of the new aircraft from virtual design to delivery using Dassault Systemes product lifecycle management (PLM) software wasnt enough to insulate it from real-world parts shortages, supplier missteps and software integration snafus.
In its latest statement to analysts and media, the company blamed the delay on “flight control software and systems integration activities” as well as “out-of-sequence manufacturing and parts shortages.” As a result of materials shortages—specifically a lack of corrosion-resistant tantalum fasteners—Boeing and its suppliers were unable to complete some assemblies in the proper sequence, causing a production holdup.
In another sign of the Dreamliner programs slippage, Boeing saw fit to replace former 787 general manager and vice president Mike Bair with a vice president from the companys Missile Defense unit, Pat Shanahan.