There have been many consistent themes in our continuous commentary on Supply Chain Matters and one of the most consistent over these past months has been the supply chain setbacks that have occurred within Boeing’s infamous 787 Dreamliner manufacturing program.  All you need to do is type in ‘Boeing’ or ‘Boeing supply chain’ in this blog’sSearch box, and you get to review the full litany of commentary.  Our latest posting was at the end of July, commenting on the fact that Boeing’s CEO finally admitted the key importance that Boeing has on its supply chain capability, which was a gross understatement of the obvious.

Today there is more disappointing news.  Boeing has now announced that it has to postpone the planned first customer delivery of the Boeing 787 into the middle of the first quarter of 2011.  Mind you, for most of this year, after numerous setbacks and postponements, Boeing’s senior management had been assuring stockholders that first customer ship would occur by the end of 2010.  This latest setback was attributed to engine supplier Rolls-Royce PLC, who’s Trent 1000 engines were specified as power plants for initial customer All Nippon Airways (ANA).  A statement released by Boeing notes that this delay: “follows an assessment of the availability of an engine needed for the final phases of flight test this fall.” The Trent engine suffered a failure while being tested on a test bed in early August.

An article penned by noted aerospace blogger Jon Ostrower on the Flightglobal site notes that compounded issues with workmanship problems with the aircraft’s Alenia Aeronautica-built horizontal stabilizer and its Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines led-up to this latest setback. Ostrower also provides details on the subject engine issues.

The most patient of all related to this ongoing litany has been designated first customer ANA, that has had to deal with an anticipated new addition to its fleet that is now three years behind schedule.  The Wall Street Journal noted in its article that ANA called the delay regrettable but added, “However, we trust that the time will be used to deliver the best possible aircraft in the shortest possible time frame.”

We at Supply Chain Matters express praise to ANA for their eloquence, since ANA has every right to be frustrated at this point. (We refrained from using a more down-to-earth six letter term that begins with a ’p’)  The sole purpose of the supply chain , as we know, is fundamentally serving the best needs of customers.

The delay announcement came very late in the evening, Seattle time, no doubt after a very long day of discussion and deliberation among Boeing’s top management. To Boeing’s credit, it has to deliver a safe and reliable aircraft. We have to wonder, however, as to which Boeing executive (s), if any, will suffer the next fall in this latest setback. Suffice it to say, Boeing’s senior management and supply chain teams remain under a very sensitized looking glass. We all need Boeing to succeed, and soon!

Bob Ferrari