In a previous post (Boeing Again Delays the 787- Another Lesson in Supply Chain Risk Management), we pointed to some of various industry views regarding the management of supplier innovation across the extended supply chain being played out within Boeing, and how these circumstances lend themselves to lessons in supply chain risk management.  I pointed out that it was unfortunate that the supplier management teams surrounding the 780 Dreamliner program did not have the opportunity to transfer the learning of Airbus in 2006.  More information and blogsphere commentary continues to be shared regarding this ongoing situation. 

Over on Spend Matters, (Boeing: When Your Suppliers Fail You Buy Them!) Jason Busch references a recent Aviation Week article that describes more detail regarding the need for Boeing to acquire Vought Aircraft Industries’ 50% share of builder Global Aeronautica (GA) in North Charleston, S.C., to apparently mitigate Vought from its de-facto burden as the complex airframe systems integrator. 

In his post, Jason points to lessons learned, that when suppliers fail you in the middle of a complex project, it’s essential to take all actions necessary to control the situation, and a more subtle learning is that when chances of supplier challenges increase by an order of magnitude, sourcing professionals should always be prepared for the worst-case scenarios. 

But the Aviation Week article reveals another important lesson in overall risk management, which is adopting the appropriate management processes to monitor and buffer complex risk within the supplier network.  Consider the two contrasting views. Boeing’s Vice President and 787 General Manager cited the need to work with Alenia to apply proven lean manufacturing expertise in an effort to improve efficiency and productivity.  “One of the lessons they learned is that they haven’t retained talent here to know if that work is being done properly.  They went too lean on their staffing models to even be able to adequately supervise this assembler model” stated Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. 

So let’s add another lesson for Supply Chain Matters readers.  The application of lean methodologies certainly has its applicability when efficiency and cost are the overriding objective. But in matters involving joint supplier innovation as well as complex business model change across the extended supply chain, embracing supplier partnership and risk assessment practices may be a more appropriate objective.  In addition to the learning at Airbus, Boeing can well adopt the learning of supplier collaboration and risk mitigation practiced at Toyota.

Bob Ferrari