Visions that Boeing could create a production “supersite” appear to be little more than a “super-dream,” it turns out.
Mike Bair, vice president of Advanced 737 Product Development, first revealed his vision for a production supersite shortly after he was replaced as head of the 787 program by Pat Shanahan, who was imported from what was then known as Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems. Bair had been in charge of the 787’s vision and production and following serious delays originating with production and design issues, Bair was moved to head future airplane program development.
A supersite is where the assembly line is surrounded by the key producers and supply chain within a short drive and preferably on a massive, single site.
As soon as Bair resurrected the idea in the March interviews, local governments in Washington State began salivating over the prospect. Snohomish County, where Boeing’s massive Everett plant is located, and several cities went so far as to draw up a map near Arlington (north of Everett) where a small private airport could form the basis of a supersite.
Shortly after being in that slot, he first publicly raised the idea in a speech. He revisited the idea in a series of press interviews, including with us, in March this year when Boeing made him available to at least a half dozen reporters to talk about the possibilities of what is now called the New Small Airplane (NSA).
But in Boeing’s pre-Paris Air Show press briefings, Ray Conner, vice president and general manager of Supply Chain Management and Operations, threw cold water on the idea.
“You know, we’ve looked at supersite concepts previously. We look at everything in terms of our production systems, and it’s just another study. That’s something we looked at previously. It’s not something that we’re…we’ll look at all concepts. Any production system, if you’re going to build a new airplane, we’ll look at everything. I’ll tell you, we’re not locked down on a supersite philosophy. We look at the concept just like we look at every concept,” Conner said.
“We have a solid, global supply chain. It’s been producing product for us for a number of years and it has to be able to support our production systems as they exist today. Supersite is a concept, and that’s what it is.”
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire on June 6 announced the formation of a task force, Project Pegasus, to position the state to win the assembly site for the New Small Airplane, whether it be a supersite or an assembly line. Just as Boeing hasn’t reached any conclusions about a supersite, neither has it for an NSA assembly site. Bair told us in March that Washington will have to compete for the NSA site, however.