One of the most encouraging news concerning Boeing in 2011 came at the very end of the year.  An article appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Boeing Examines Supply Chain for Weak Links, (paid subscription required or free metered view) notes that as this aircraft manufacturer faces its biggest production ramp-up in years, it is actively practicing supplier outreach.

As we have noted in previous commentary that Boeing currently has a delivery backlog of 3500 commercial aircraft and needs to ramp-up its global supply chain to be able to sustain a 60 percent increase in production and customer delivery activity. The WSJ article notes that Boeing’s suppliers report that the company has become much more proactive in stress-testing supplier process and delivery capabilities, making recommendations where required. For its part, Boeing is investing in supplier assistance teams adding 200 engineers and supply chain specialists over the past 18 months. The Boeing executive responsible for the 737 program is quoted as indicating a “fundamentally different” approach. Rather than a tops-down approach to setting supplier requirements and milestones, the company is now regularly verifying that suppliers have the right skills, processes and capabilities.

Supply Chain Matters trusts that this article really reflects Boeing’s renewed sensitivity to its global supply chain ecosystem and not just another public relations outreach.  We would certainly appreciate hearing from Boeing supplier teams as to whether there is a more proactive outreach and fundamental change in philosophy.

The ultimate test however remains how Boeing actually ramps its internal and external supply chain capabilities in the coming months, without major supply chain glitches.  There is much at-stake, and we would certainly be looking toward a more proactive Boeing commentary in 2012.

Bob Ferrari