Update (2): Boeing rehires aircraft inspectors

By Bryan Corliss

May 18, 2021 © Leeham News — The Boeing Co. has quietly recalled at least some of as many as 900 quality control inspectors who were laid off in 2019 as part of a drive to adopt car-industry manufacturing processes in aerospace manufacturing.

The move comes after the union for the inspectors – Machinists District Lodge 751 – pushed the company to prove that getting rid of inspectors could be done without risking quality issues and would actually improve production times.

“Our union’s goal is to save Boeing from making decisions that could be detrimental to (its) future and ours,” union leaders said in its monthly AeroMechanic newsletter. “A second set of eyes is a critical component of building Boeing airplanes and necessary for the long-term success of the company.”

A union spokeswoman said she was unable to say precisely how many of the inspectors were initially laid off, and how many have been brought back since the recalls started. Boeing’s media relations team did not respond to a written list of questions on the topic.

Updated: Boeing provided a written statement that said, in part, that there has been “no reduction in quality staffing related to changes in our inspection approach,” despite reports in 2019 that a new approach to quality control would lead to far fewer human inspections, and inspectors.

Update 2, May 24: Boeing provided additional information today about the reported layoffs of verification inspectors, first reported by The Seattle Times in 2019.

Boeing acknowledged that a former Boeing executive told The Times then that up to 900 inspectors could be laid off that year. It was this 2019 report that formed the basis of LNA’s introductory paragraph.

However, in response to a specific question by LNA, today Boeing said there were no cuts in quality inspectors in 2019.

There were layoffs in 2020, following the eruption of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which occurred during the extended grounding of the 737 MAX. Boeing declined to specify the number.

“We don’t provide details about employment in specific teams,” a spokesman wrote in an email to LNA. “As we’ve said throughout the past year, due to the pandemic’s impact on commercial aviation, we reduced production rates for some of our commercial programs, and our factory employment is directly related to production work statement.”

Smart Tools

In 2019, Boeing announced a plan to use “smart tools” – using Bluetooth technology connecting to a database — that would allow work to be done so precisely that quality control inspections by humans would no longer be necessary. Instead of doing quality checks 100% of the time, inspectors would sample 1-in-100 tasks, or maybe less, the company told The Seattle Times.

This process – Boeing dubbed it “Verification Optimization” – is adapted from a process that Toyota uses on its auto assembly lines.

For Boeing, the plan would have had two business benefits: eliminating 900 people from the payroll, and also eliminating a few minutes of downtime for mechanics while they wait for an inspector to come around to inspect and sign off on their work.

In theory, if you eliminate the downtime and the inspections a few thousand times on each plane, that adds up to substantial savings in production time without any investment in people or tools.

IAM 751 appealed to the Federal Aviation Administration to look into Boeing’s plan and made rumblings about getting its supporters in Congress to intervene. Congress is now preparing an investigation into quality lapses at Boeing.

But the deciding factor, in this case, seems to have been the union’s demand to enter into what’s called effects bargaining. Since Boeing was eliminating 900 jobs, the union claimed the right to negotiate over the impact of those changes on its members.

As a result of these talks, Boeing and the union agreed that a team of union-appointed experts would begin reviewing data in areas where inspections were ending, with the ability to propose reinstating inspections when warranted, using Boeing’s own risk assessment criteria and FAA regulations as guidelines.

No Efficiency Gains

What the experts found was that eliminating inspections did not lead to a more efficient production process, the union said.

“In many instances, mechanics were not even made aware that inspections were removed, nor were they given any training on how this would impact their roles and responsibilities in their work assignment,” the union said. “It was a short-sighted decision without considering the long-term consequences.”

Last fall, the union said, Boeing agreed to resume having human inspectors reinstated to inspect thousands of holes that must be drilled within close tolerances (often with only a few thousands of an inch margin for error).

More inspections were reinstated in April, and Boeing recalled inspectors to do that work, the union said. The union said it will “continue to push Boeing to recall and hire additional inspectors” because “inspection remains an important and positive role in the production process.”

Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates tweeted on Tuesday that the leader of the Verification Optimization effort, Ernesto Gonzalez-Beltran, left the company in December.

Update: Boeing, in its written response to our original post, said that it continues to “work across Boeing to improve safety and quality performance in our operations, while strictly adhering to all regulatory requirements.”

The company said that it uses “ongoing critical assessments to focus our inspections and also have increased resources to help prevent quality issues before they occur. For example, manufacturing and quality teams are working closely with engineers to ensure designs are easy to produce and less susceptible to errors, while identifying and eliminating the root cause of quality issues.”


78 Comments on “Update (2): Boeing rehires aircraft inspectors

  1. Great: self-certification in combination with lack of self-inspection is a wonderful recipe for quality, isn’t it? I can imagine that an airline executive like the meticulous Al Baker (Qatar) will be really comforted by this article 😏

    Most interesting: some people still seem to believe that such a manufacturing ethos represents a “gold standard” of quality to which countries in “the east” couldn’t possibly aspire.

    With this information emerging, as well as the new congressional investigation into quality control, one can expect many more order cancellations at BA.

    • > as well as the new congressional investigation into quality control, one can expect many more order cancellations at BA. <

      Nah.. we you read "investigation" these days, think instead "whitewash / coverup", then check the fit.


      • @Bill7

        Con permiso – maybe you are being too hasty to downplay this further sign of Congress hissy with BA

        The US (ruling class as well as what is left of the middle class) is lumbering slowly towards some kind of recognition that reform at every level in every nook is essential – not only in health production but in industrial production ind ag infra etc

        Witness repeated DoD tantrums with BA and across the whole mil-ind complex – not a good idea to alienate the Generals by building non combat combat planes : is not the first rule of a banana republic to make sure the generals are smiling?

        • I hope you are right. The contract with America did much to dismantle intrinsic infrastructure let alone the practical. Specific to aerospace, I had a new manager ’bout 20 years back who just got his shiny new MBA at a prestigious school out West. Did he love to attack the Quality people in our engineering division. In his eyes it didn’t nothing to add to revenue streams.

          • @SamI

            Biden is making the right noises infra wise and on shoring wise

            Whether anything will be done is a different matter

            Also, he’s talking up War with China and why not Russia tambien while we’re talking

            People say that a President can perhaps do one of the two (infra or war) not both

            Witness FDR and Lyndon (the Great Society swamped by Vietnam)

        • I see this as a good sign that Boeing is at least starting to get it.

          Lack of understanding runs rampant in this area. .

          First, this is likely a consequence of dumping Smith who was the bean counters bean counter (he could not see the Coffee Plantation operation as he only focused on the beans).

          Also, quali9ty control is a multi faceted subject and you mis-apply a method that is not made to work with the operation you have.

          Toyota has done it because they made those moves long long ago and they were built into the system. If your quality is high enough, then you just do random sampling not inspect of each operation.

          The 787 Shims were a classic case in point. Boeing never confirmed the system worked, they just assumed. That falls into the category of Wishful thinking and it bit them in the butt big time.

          It may be the 787 build process is inherently so in-precise that you always will need custom fits and shimming and checks.

          The T-7A was designed from the ground up with the tools needed for extremely close fits and tolerance built in and it showed clearly (at least on low rate build, it still has to prove out at higher rates)

          I got to watch a joke of an operation that was called SSI (Strategic Sourcing Initiative – very catchy. Basically it was a move to copy auto mfg in consolidation in one large contract into everything facilities used from Janitors, Parts and Toilet, filters etc.

          The claim was 10 million saving a year.

          After loosing 7 million we never heard of it again (and you got a really dirty look when you brought it up which I did as the case warranted)

          What works for Auto (see the Chip shortage!) does not work for a facility maintenance operation. Apples and Lobsters.

          Just in Time Delivery saves you a lot of money until it does not (the Ever Given is still being held hostage in the Suez Canal)

          Managers love to throw stuff out to build glory, the bad ones (Smith etc) don’t get that it takes follow up, words are worthless, its action and planning that counts.

          And if you do your planning and you find out you were selling a pig in a poke, then you have to admit it (or hose up the operation, the phrase is They Want All the Glory But Can’t Stand the Pain)

          • @TW

            About the chip shortage – all reports have stated this is a general chip shortage

            The car making companies in the US are admitting shortages drastic cuts in production etc etc

            Toyota in Japan say they are fine for supplies

            When will Boeing admit to a chip shortage – or did they foresee this problem before it became a problem and purchase enough chips to cover say 18 months production?

            Or have BA in this, once again, sort of copied Toyota but not quite?

          • That is pretty wild. Another Apples to Lobster irrelevance.

            More reinforcement to the end of the world cry just for Boeing.

            If you really look at let alone understand the chip shortage, its related to Auto more than anything as they use older chips that are not cutting edge and have a lot less ability for profit.

            At rate 5, how many chips and what TYPE does a 787 use?

            Neither Airbus nor Boeing reports any issues.

            Toyota learned from the disruption following the Tohoku Quake and Tsunami ) and took steps.

            It has nothing to do with Boeing.

          • @TW

            You mean the worldwide general chip shortage miraculously spares BA : How come?

            Read the reports, chip shortage is a general across the board issue, not just ‘old fashioned’ auto chips, although the US auto industry was/is perhaps more stupid than most when they canceled so many contracts

            Here’s just one link –

            Besides –I seem to remember that the 737 computers were so old fashioned they were considered antiques

            But perhaps BA has given up making Maxes anyway

            Guess what – the chip shortage was in part provoked by the US trade war with China, because, guess what, the US does not make hardly no chips, but China does

            This is called shooting your self in both feet just to make sure you can shoot yourself in the head

          • @ Gerrard
            You’re perfectly correct.
            Aircraft contain all sorts of systems that use low-tech chips. For example the IFE, radio circuitry, cabin lighting and environment control, fluid temperature/pressure measurement and regulation, basic actuator control, driver circuitry for cockpit displays, door status/control circuitry…the list is long.

          • @Bryce

            Great link – at least BA figured out they need chips and asked someone to do something about it

    • @Bryce

      You are right – even tho’ this self inspecting advanced tech process is, as Mr Hamilton states, copied from Toyota (IP theft anyone?)

      Plenty of US exceptionalists will clarion that this represents a magnificent Oceania Victory over Eurasia

      Whereas Toyota can, evidently, operate such a system successfully, BA fails to do so

      Which calls to mind Chairman Cal’s ‘breakthrough’ production procedures the subject of a recent post – theory is one (was this concept also copied from Toyota?) successful mass production is another

        • OK, so now we know who the shanzhai mole was who funneled Toyota technology to BA 😉

          • Per previous comment, Auto Industry stuff does not translate into the rest of the world.

            And Auto Stuff also is a warning that when the system fails it fails disastrous.

            Anyone ever hear fo McNamara and the F-111? Great bomber, it sure was hell was no fighter.

          • And stealing IP, really. Like Just in Time delivery and modern production methods are some kind of IP?

            Yes Sir ree Bob, I can walk and breathed and that is IP. Amazing.

          • Remember those comments before your next rant on alleged Chinese “theft” of western “IP” 😏

          • Bryce:

            Its a shame you have no compression of what IP is or is not and if it applies.

          • Transworld, if by “Auto stuff” you’re referring to something like the Toyota Production System, then yes if it goes wrong it goes wrong in a big way.

            The reason why it often goes wrong is because companies don’t buy into the entire thing. It’s not something that can be done by halves. For instance, Boeing claimed to have an Andon system, whereby assembly workers could say, “that’s not right” and stop production. Trouble is, this really doesn’t sit at all well with either 1) production targets, 2) bonuses related to meeting production targets. And indeed, Toyota’s way basically means not having those things, but I reckon Boeing didn’t buy into that aspect.

            It’s also no good having Andon on a final assembly line, and not all the way back into the entire supplier base. To find (for a hypothetical example) that two fuselage barrels won’t mate properly on the FAL is way too late. The barrel building should have spotted it. The supplier of the frames / panels for the barrel should have spotted it. The maker of the mold / presses used to shape the frames / panels should have spotted it. And, so on.

            Toyota are very keen on getting to the root cause, but it’s amazing how hard that is when there’s a tight contract with T&C’s about production and payments in the way.

          • Matthew:

            Thank you for the relief of a well written and reasoned response. Its nice to see something other than knee jerk.

            The Auto Industry deals in millions of car built a year, aircraft mfg under 1000.

            Some of the practices can cross, Boeing failing to do dimensional. checks on the fuselage fits they were production is stunning.

            That stuff can be scanned and logged and compared to the specified easily.

            Aircraft are really hand built for a given customer on a quasi production line though.

            Scales of any parts is no where near an auto mfg.

            Auto can shut down (and do for year to year changes) as the inventory carries them over and through.

            Aircraft being built and sold to a specific airline ops has (normally) zero inventory.

            So any shift affects sales hugely.

            Where Boeing has failed is sloppy assumption in that their auto shim system needs no confirmation or testing.

            There are many paths to quality, if you look at the Emissions tests for vehicles, they are safe by 30% (sometimes more)

            With everything built to a really high spec, getting an emissions failure ) other than deliverable cheating) is almost unheard of.

            For the shim system to work, you would need a template of the actually build, a program that assessed shim need and a micrometer to check what the shim making machine was putting out.

            Having that adds in the joints would show up red as out of spec to start with, so it would be addressed before it even got to the Shim inspector.

            Fuselage sections per 787 and A350 are impossible to make better than spec so you always will have a variable shim which means you cannot high standard it out, but you can control it (and with a few made each month its not a manpower sucking aspect like an Auto would be)

            Whats interesting is you can if you do full digital all the way per the T-7A.

      • Sharp of you to pick up on the IP theft aspect.
        Looks like BA attempted a shanzhai of Toyota and made a mess of it.
        How embarrassing! And how confusing also, because we’re constantly told here that companies in the east are doomed to mimic those in the west — and, yet, we have the opposite occurring (and backfiring) in this instance.

        Still, the return of “schoolteacher” inspectors fits well into the pattern of “babysitter” pilots in the jump seat and “chaperoning” flight monitoring services from the ground. When you have a precarious process/product, it’s a good idea to monitor it from as many different angles as possible.

        Next question: who’ll want recent BA airframes, knowing that they were manufactured in the absence of QC inspectors?

        • before and after WW2, cheap counterfit goods/toys. etc were ” made in usa” ( actually Japan.)

          Then along came Deming. Toyota paid attention. Eventually GM paid attention. By the late 70’s- Boeing decided to listen to Deming. But the view foil rangers decided that Deming was outdated, and a half dozen imitators came along almost yearly. But Boeing did pick up on elements of just in time issues. 767 fuselage sections made in Japan were a bit eye opening as to overall quality and fit. Some Deming elements sort of rubbed off on some areas of Boeing. Then along came MDC and Jack welch types- and the rest is history.

          • Sharp on IP. Wow.

            The IL is in negative area now.

          • TransWorld
            May 19, 2021

            Sharp on IP. Wow. ..

            Oh great guru ?- What is YOUR definition of your oft used
            acronym ” IP” ?? So that the rest of us unwashed can properly understand your comments in context ?

      • “I seem to remember that the 737 computers were so old fashioned they were considered antiques”

        Which was an exaggeration, note context was processing speed theories/guesses by outsiders. Certainly they’d been around for quite a few years, but were not the FCCs used in early 737s that had Sperry FCCs.
        Certainly aviation things can stay with older technology because it is proven and software for it is available and proven. A complication is ’embedded’ use of CPUs, different from what’s in your personal computer. So the Intel 80186 was for embedded use, the 8086 for regular uses. The later 80286 had errors, eventually a fixed version was introduced.

        What the situation is with chips for avionics I do not know. I expect sourcing will have been carefully selected and monitored. There may be small companies manufacturing old or special designs, for a price.

        • From the Verge:

          The ancient computers in the Boeing 737 Max are holding up a fix

          Even by late-’90s consumer tech standards, the FCC-730s were behind the curve. By the time they went to market, Nintendo had already replaced its 16-bit SNES console with the Nintendo 64 (the first game console to use — you guessed it — a 64-bit CPU), and IBM had created the world’s first dual-core processor.

          Of course, old and slow isn’t always worse: the 737 Next Generation series is the safest narrow-body airplane ever made, in part due to these reliable, if unspectacular, computers. To keep costs down, Boeing wanted to reuse them in the next iteration of the 737 as well. The Max might still be flying today if those computers simply had to perform the same tasks that they had for almost 30 years.

          But Boeing needed them to do much more.

          From the NYTimes

          Boeing’s 737 Max: 1960s Design, 1990s Computing Power and Paper Manuals

          -> The 737 Max is a legacy of its past, built on decades-old systems, many that date back to the original version. The strategy, to keep updating the plane rather than starting from scratch, offered competitive advantages. Pilots were comfortable flying it, while airlines didn’t have to invest in costly new training for their pilots and mechanics. For Boeing, it was also faster and cheaper to redesign and recertify than starting anew.

          But the strategy has now left the company in crisis, following two deadly crashes in less than five months. The Max stretched the 737 design, creating a patchwork plane that left pilots without some safety features that could be important in a crisis — ones that have been offered for years on other planes. It is the only modern Boeing jet without an electronic alert system that explains what is malfunctioning and how to resolve it. Instead pilots have to check a manual.

          -> “It was state of the art at the time, but that was 50 years ago,” said Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing engineer who helped design the Max’s cockpit. “It’s not a good airplane for the current environment.”

    • They didn’t even bother telling or training their production workers because management thinks it’s all Lego blocks building airplanes!

      • Sounds like you’ve hit the nail on the head.
        Hence the lack of any reticence in sending production to Charleston. After all, if they can manufacture ketchup in SC (Heinz), then they shouldn’t have any trouble manufacturing planes…right?

        • Its not a simple answer.

          In the case of the Shim, its not a worker training issue.

          Auto ensures this does not occur because the variation they mfg parts to is so small that the gaskets or goop seals the joint.

          What gets caught is oblivious stuff.

          As aircraft hulls cannot be mfg to a fine tolerance (that is coming, see the T-7A) you have to shim. The workers know how to put shims in.

          They have no tools to assess that the fuselage itself is out of spec.

          That goes back to mfg and a scanner to check that (which clearly was not in place). If it had been it would never have gotten to worker level.

          The Shim machines going to chuck out variable shims based on legitimate variance in the two joints and the design on how to make those work correctly .

          So you give a worker an electronic micrometer and the shim varies because its supposed to. That is wasted. His training is how to properly install and then tighten the fasten to the shim he is given.

          The scanner for the fuselage section is a huge cost and not something a line worked is trained for nor should be.

          The failure occurred that this was not done and there was no follow up to see if the shim machine was putting out correct size shims (of which it can’t do as the tolerance are wrong)

          Once the system is in place, the upstream workers running the scanner and dealing with the Alert.

          Then someone has to determine what the remedy is (long term its to fix whatever is causing the out of spec variation)

          Short term is a modified shim setup, that is a CHANGE and its got to be done at the Boeing/FAA inspector /engineering level to be correct.

          A shim installer does his job based on others doing their job. He does not also do the Boeing books to ensure they are paying their taxes (or not)

          My job was to ensure my machinery was working, it was not my job to do anyone else job to make sure the process was working that machinery supported.

    • Sampling inspection is done, obviously one consideration is criticality of item.

      Another is reliability of producer. “Back when” Boeing was doing 100% incoming test on flight deck instruments because of the poor performance of many suppliers.

      OTOH, considerable embarrassment when a Flight Engineer for PanAm said ‘Hey people, your new Watt/Var meters are not accurate in Var mode.” Erps, indeed. I forget whether the problem was in Boeing’s specification for the meters for the updated flight deck or in the supplier’s paperwork or testing. No one had noticed for quite some time, I suppose most FEs just used the Var function as a quick check so did not pay much attention to accuracy.

      (‘Back when’, FEs could check on generator performance and shift load a bit, the meters showed kW but when a button was pushed they showed KVar (IIRC).
      Var reflects the reactive portion of power, caused by capacitance or inductance. Electrical utilities often add huge capacitors to get balance for efficiency, as many loads are inductive (motors especially).)

  2. Inspectors? Inspectors ? we dont need no stinkin inspectors ‘

    Also sprach boeing power point rangers . .

  3. But when the inspectors were there wasn’t the quality still poor?

    • A well-treated workforce is a conscientious workforce..

      “That’s crazy-talk!”

  4. People mention Toyota. Toyota successfully implemented quality control and productivity ideas developed in the USA and were promoted by W Edwards Deming https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming
    The UK itself had very advanced techniques in production such as Manufacturing Cells, Quality Cells and Kanban type systems that if developed through the second world war that either fell by the wayside or didn’t spread throughout industry.

    Perhaps one reason is that its well known that Toyota don’t use automation or quality control to reduce the workforce. Ever. That changes the psychology and enthusiasm dramatically and it appears that workforce reduction was happening at Boeing. That guy that sees a problem and the solution is not going to come forward if it accelerates the demise of his job. His brain space is going into job change.

    British manufacturing overcame its problems which I think were a combination of stagflation, the vestiges of class warfare and now have great products so I think that Boeing can find its way, one day, as well.

    The innovative thinking is there. I do recall a few decades ago a famous iconic British automaker blaming the quality of its electrical components supplier for its poor reliability records, meanwhile Toyota was imbedding teams into its suppliers to help them improve quality.

    I fear the west and USA lack the homogeneity needed.

      • Deming used to say “Blame the system not the people”. Just doing that changes the culture and gets people looking for identifying solutions instead of protecting themselves by hiding or not mentioning problems and or blaming others. Over the decades I’ve been exposed to a variety of quality control systems (VAM, TPM, TQM, 6 sigma, SPC etc.), which though often derided as fads, seem to work by getting people talking to each other and management and getting away from crude solutions. When they’ve failed its because it hasn’t been seriously promoted and explained throughout the organization as a culture people adopt i.e. an ISO accreditation that is just a ‘tick’ on the companies letter head and some record keeping rather than something generally understood and supported as a way of making things better. A good quality system is almost a religious experience when it’s working it feels so good.

    • Toyota’s approach to business is amazing, and by design it rubs off on their suppliers. There’s a lot of component suppliers that have stopped supplying anyone but Toyota, because of how good it is to be doing business with Toyota.

      As I understand it, Toyota don’t really set production targets on their suppliers, and nor do they ever, ever rip off their suppliers. All they really want is for the suppliers to work in “the Toyota way”.

      It’s got a lot to do with the thing you’ve highlighted – embedding teams into its suppliers.

      • The opposite the airframer mentioned above of “pilfering from suppliers”.

  5. If BA were truly interested in quality, it wouldn’t be centralizing operations in South Carolina — flying in the face of the many quality issues there compared to Washington. Remember that Qatar only accepted 787s from WA, and multiple other carriers expressed dissatisfaction at the build quality coming out of SC.

    Does BA think that the return of human quality inspectors is somehow going to transform the mentality in Charleston? If so, then why didn’t that approach work prior to 2019?

      • So?
        I have non-unionized tech clients who produce top-notch semiconductor products.
        And Airbus manages to produce premium quality despite being heavily unionized.
        So what does unionization have to do with quality?

        • You did read that it was the Union that was involved?

          You do realize Charleston is non union?

          • SC needs no stinky inspectors?? No wonder!

          • A union was “involved” in precipitating a study into the cost effectiveness of human inspectors versus automated inspection. That doesn’t mean that the presence of a union is necessary in order to enact the outcome of that study elsewhere.

          • What’s your point here, TW?

            Charleston, from my POV, was about
            union-breaking and its pointed

            No me gusta

          • Bill7:

            The inspectors issue being discussed is union. Renton and Everett

            Charleston has its own build process and staff and it is not a Union and we do not know what is going on there.

            In short directly this does not apply to Charleston, which may well be much worse (and has shown that)

            What gets corrected in Everett and Renton is not going to apply to a fix or improvement in Charleston unless management looks at it and decides they too need better process.

    • Let’s not act that Everett is squeaky clean from QC. This is system wide.

      I don’t understand the obsession with keeping everything in Seattle.

      Airbus has plants in 3 different continents. So where you put it is almost irrelevant.

      It boils down to Quality control and the steps you take to improve the procedures that your engineers go through and what happens when they procedure is not adhered to

      • I don’t think that everything has to be kept in Seattle.
        But, seeing as BA hasn’t (yet) been able to get the quality issues in Charleston sorted out, it seems ill-advised to increase operations there at the expense of other locations where quality is higher.

        Airbus seems to have no problems with quality in Mobile, AL: it makes one wonder what the hell the problem is in Charleston.

        • Opus:

          Spot on.

          But Airbus templates its operations and Boeing moved to Charleston specifically to get away from the union.

          Airbus in Alabama may no be Union, but the staffing is going to reflect Toulouse and Hamburg.

          Charleston and Everett/Renton may well be two totally different issues.

          KC-46 and the MAX builds with the FOD are a major bust and may reflect a demoralized work force.

          But the Everett 787s were built well and desirable.

          Charleston was all about cutting costs and nothing else. Fewer post check inspectors , none? make a fuss and you are fired?

          • I wish folks stop saying Boeing went to SC because of the unions they went to rescue the 787 program period. When Vought was building section 47/48 it was taking up to 90 days to complete the 10 day job. There was no tooling there, they made you walk-around the whole plant looking for fasteners before they would let you order what you needed. You had to lay out everything by hand which is stupid and inaccurate. It was a mess Boeing had to take over

  6. This does not just happen at Boeing, when you have failure of the system and process for ensuring its maintained, this is what you get


    The Skagit River Bridge take down makes for interesting reading

    Basically Sate of Washington issued oversize load permits and did not have any cross checks that confirmed the bridges on the route could pass the load through.

    They logged bridge strikes , but the Permit Operation was stand alone so they did have any way to know their Permit Process was a failure (many bridge strikes)

    Bridges above min height did not have a height posting but an oversized permit is exactly that, we are running an oversize load (width and height) down your road system.

    Some states have LIDAR they have mapped their routes and know what the limits are.

    Also some use a LIDAR warning system for height issues and soon enough for a driver to take an exit while they figure it out.

    But if the left hand does not know the implication of the right hands action or operation and lack therefore, it all falls apart.

    Its where the hard work is, to understand it, link it and have a multi layer system that works if one part does not.

  7. Regarding the shortage of computer chips: the oddest things
    happen when certain entities choose to shut down a globalized, just-in-time™ economy..

    whocouldaknowed ?

  8. On the subject of (lack of) quality at Boeing, the embarrassing KC-46 “flying lemon” is again in the news in a negative context:

    “WASHINGTON: A key House Armed Services Committee member yesterday vowed to use the 2022 defense authorization to address the Air Force’s “embarrassing” contract with Boeing for the troubled KC-46 tanker — as the head of Transportation Command suggested Pegasus fielding may face yet more delay.”

    “Wittman, in high dudgeon, decried Air Force “semi-triumphant messaging” about the fact that Boeing is using its own funds to rectify the myriad problems preventing the tankers from being used in combat, despite the fact that the program “continues to lag in providing relevant capability” to TRANSCOM.”

    ““I would confess to you my view from looking at this — I think we’ve got a long way to go on the KC-46 with regard to Boeing and the work that has to be done between now and ’23. And, we’ll continue to monitor that closely, but the Air Force would be in a better place to answer that question,” he told the hearing.”


    • > “Wittman, in high dudgeon, decried Air Force “semi-triumphant messaging” <

      It's pure theatre, dude. The stage lights go off; the right™ palms get greased; and nothing (for now, for now!) changes. US perestroika *will come* after all
      this late-Western theatre (moral, emotional, "spiritual") is exhausted.

      Guessing you know all this, though.

      • Of course it’s theater.
        The important thing is that this article serves to reiterate that the KC-46 is still an ongoing mess, and probably will be for at least the coming 18-24 months. And it’s still a financial black hole for Boeing.
        You’ll recall, no doubt, that a “certain commenter” from the past liked to tell us that this program was almost fixed, and was now doing “limited ops”. Nice to hear the real story from the armed forces.

        • @Bryce

          I take all the points about everyone showboating, and that no one really cares if the toy planes fly or not as long as the price/cost does the work

          Except that – the greater the distance from any kind of reality and between the bark and the bite the ever closer the US élites/leaders come to wandering into a war not of their choosing, one they are bound to lose

          They are not all of them as stupid as Biden – nor as given to lying: various clear headed statements from the DoD have made it obvious that some at least of the Generals are aware of the structural operational and technical failures which guarantee defeat in any conflict larger than one with a very tiny Caribbean island

          At least they are aware of the chip shortages as your link has proven – maybe mayhem can be put off till the new fabs come online c.2030

          • @ Gerrard
            I think we can be certain that there are many voices in the armed forces who are well aware of the various failures to which you and others refer.
            However, the military is also a huge bureaucracy and political wasp’s nest, full of ego matches, posturing and backstabbing, and it probably also has a significant share of denialists.
            China’s/Russia’s recent development of hypersonic missiles was a slap on the face. The same can be said for the fact that China now has more naval ships than the US. But there’ll be many who counter such developments with predictable retorts along the lines of “yeah, but we have more nukes”. If that latter group has the overhand, then there won’t be (enough) change.

          • @Bryce

            I’m sure I agree with you – yesterday’s Putin is a killer is today’s Blinken/Lavrov summit smiles and let’s work together

            Dems (more and more) are worried that Presidential bad mouthing of China is racist and results in more Asian Americans being discriminated against – the jargon is that vigilance is necessary about the rhetoric impact on AAPI communities

            They know not what what they think or want – but isn’t that their inevitable pre condition for going to war?

  9. When you experience a part failure on your car, you park it and call a tow truck. Try that with an airplane.

  10. Boeing’s comment in the update is parsing words.

    They say the former quality inspectors are now doing other “quality work” instead of post-installation inspections. But the company doesn’t deny that it has reduced the latter.

    It’s obfuscation that I didn’t entertain in my story.

    • Thank you for your highly informative and candid journalism 🙂

    • Yes, all indications are telling us that the next crash will end the quality and product design issues at BCA in a *permanent* manner. Unfortunate? yes, but when a misguided management philosophy (Friedman et al) transforms the natural order of a complex/technical business into obfuscation and swindle, reality has a tendency to come home rather violently.

  11. This is a case study in current leadership at Boeing. The top level comes up with a hare-brained cost savings idea. It is pushed down from the top. Mid-level executives suspend any critical thinking and just go along with it because they are focused on managing their careers. The experiment proves to be a disaster and the company ultimately reverses course but pretends like it is not reversing course.

    • When you are given orders you either follow them or get fired.

      Its not managing careers.

      As one manager told me, sometimes you have to let things break before you can get them fixed.

      The best I could do with a stupid decision (at my level I could do it) was tell them I disagree, you are wrong but I will follow orders.

      The hoot was (well you have to get what fun you can) was having them try to convince me that it was brilliant thing to do.

      Nope, tell me what you want, I will do it, but I am not going to agree nor was I put in this position to agree. If you don’t want my opinion then make me a mechanical again and we will both be happier.

      If it was unsafe, nope, you do it or find someone to do it, I am not.

      That manager was in the building when a gas line ruptured, he and the mechanic on site spent 15 minute finding a shutoff valve, getting a lift and going 20 feet in the air and getting it stopped. They were very proud of themselves

      Me? You should have pulled the fire alarm and evacuated the building and once you run out the front door shut the main off, take all of 45 seconds.

      Oh, and don’t pull the power, its all on backup, you are just gong to switch to the generator and things staring spark.

    • No, as I often have stated, its a significant problem everywhere.

      We hope with mandate of minimum 1500 hours (not 250) we avoid that.

      But it has to do with quality of training. Anyone can build 1500 hours flying straight and level.

      • Once flying is back up to mostly normal levels , the following year might be a shocker for safety, as pilots skills have degraded during their furloughs

  12. A bit off topic, but of potential interest to readers outside the EU:

    CNBC: “Europe is welcoming vaccinated tourists this summer: Here’s what you need to know”

    “EU countries officially agreed on Thursday to welcome foreign travelers who have received one of the coronavirus vaccines approved by European regulators. So far, these include the vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Vaccinated people will be allowed to enter the bloc, if they’ve received the last recommended dose at least 14 days before their arrival in the EU.
    Children who are excluded from vaccination can travel to the bloc with their family, if they’ve had a negative test no more than 72 hours before arrival.”


  13. Exclusive: BA is talking about upping the production rate of the max to 42 units per month in fall 2022:

    “Implementation will depend on demand, the health of suppliers and Boeing’s success in reducing a surplus of jets already built.
    As an interim step, Boeing hopes to speed monthly output from single digits now to about 26 a month at the end of 2021 at its Renton factory near Seattle, two of the sources said. ”

    “It is still awaiting the go-ahead from China after winning Western approvals late last year. Chief Executive Dave Calhoun has warned that the timing of remaining approvals will influence the shape of Boeing’s final production ramp-up.”


    On that last point, Singapore Airlines yesterday said that it was planning on receiving 32 aircraft in the coming months, including 8 MAXs…even though the MAX has not yet been ungrounded in Singapore. In a press statement, the company said that ungrounding of the MAX in Singapore depends on what other regulators in the Asia/Pacific region do — a reference to the fact that the plane currently isn’t allowed to fly to most of the region.

  14. “In a press statement, the company said that ungrounding of the MAX in Singapore depends on what other regulators in the Asia/Pacific region do”

    BA’s boast that the 737 MAX return to fly in most countries sounds rather hollow when it can’t deliver the jet to 40% of world market.

    • Perhaps in 4 years the COMAC 919 will have more nations accepting it than the B737 MAX. I’m being cheeky but if there is another mishap its a possibillity.

  15. It’s hard to see what “Verification Optimization” is with Bluetooth Tags.

    The Bluetooth tags would seem to be an electronic version of the paper “journey card” that went with a product through assembly. It lists all the steps and assembly stations to be taken and the checks needed. Using a Bluetooth version just means its easy to update a database without a human scheduler doing a round in the morning. Probably goes into a SAP MRP 2 software module or something. (what its really about)

    “Verification Optimization” just sounds like a term borrowed from software compiler technology. It’s like the IT people were driving this show even in naming.

    I do recall studying the Toyota Production System decades ago while doing my own MBA. Toyota would do things such as add photocells into the tot boxes that contained components for manual assembly and connect it to a simple PLC. If an assembly worker didn’t reach in during an assembly stop a warning would be raised for the worker to check. That probably got rid of 80% of assembly faults which were caused by a worker forgetting something because of a distraction. It would be necessary to have a check down stream such as a camera that compared an image with a correct master image or a inspector if you don’t want to accept the occasional faulty assembly (from incorrectly placed component)

    So the Bluetooth Chip basically just helps the Materials Requirement Planning 2 (MRP 2) system track where each component (or sub component) It’s got little to do with quality control except in that it tracks what quality checks have been carried out in real time by knowing where the assembly is. These systems are sometimes referred to as real time accounting systems because they don’t need a stock take.

    So although its best to have workers do their own quality control of both the work they do and the material they bring in because it stops errors being passed into the system and only being discovered at the end of assembly (or worse by the customer) some kind of inspector is needed to ensure this is being followed.

  16. I struggle to see how one draws a line between the RTS of B737 MAX in Singapore, Vietnam, India and Indonesia et al. and the C919.

    Worry not, a fish rots from the heads down, a tree rots from the inside. Better to keep your house in order? Easier said than done.

  17. I have been in a leadership position (for most of my 30 years) mostly in Aerospace but have dabbled in Medical/Oil and Gas and Space. I have performed over 500 audits of both fortune 500 and small shops, as such I believe their can be a happy medium to the amount and type of quality checks but that requires commitment.
    1) Allow Quality to pull stamps and require retraining
    2) Base the amount of SPC on risk and quantified process control data
    3) Allow Quality to stop an operation and perform random checks
    4) Require upstream operations to be accountable and if not IAW to provide budget or personnel to get it right
    5) Document all the Work Around Plans (get a quality signature) and get serious about fixing them
    6) Move underperforming personnel
    7) Understand that highly regulated products have high liability and any serious event can be harmful to the company, locality, state, country and or industry and especially to personnel and their families. ( how has the recent BA issue affected retirees, suppliers, localities etc.?)

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