Boeing What's happening to Boeing's production?

Other than engineering trouble, flawed design, worrisome prolems are emerging from production line.

The Boeing KC-46 Pegasus, new choosen USAF aerial refueling and strategic transport aircraft to replace old KC-135 Stratotankers, was grounded a first time at the end of february, due to tools and debris left into airplanes, as reported by The Seattle Times. Then this happened again a month later, as reported by AirForceTimes latest April 2.

In the mean time, after Ethiopian 737 accident, USAF decided to rewiev training as KC-46 use a similar MCAS to help stability, this review is focused in emergency procedure than as KC-46 MCAS is different from 737 Max, as it uses two sensor and inertial gyroscope for AOA and it's disengaged if pilot make stick input. All this is happening after a two year delay of delivery that are pushing USAF TRANSCOM to defer KC-135 retirement.

Now same problems are happening in Boeing South Carolina, the second factory where 787 Dreamliner are assembled, as reported by New York Times, and to worsen, appear that reports from employeers and quality control were ignored and have recieved pressure not to report violation.

The 787 Dreamliner was the first airliner with an airframe primarily built on composite materials. It had to be delivered in 2008 but this was delayed till 2011 then, entred in service, it suffered from various problems, fuel leakage, problematic lithium-ion battery design that grounded 787 for four month in 2013, wiring damage, engines stops due to ice shedding in General Electric GEnx fan
 

anorlunda

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[Moderator note: Moved to general engineering. Could have been general discussion. But quality is closely related to engineering, so general engineering seems to be the right place.]
 
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Scrutiny, mostly.
 

anorlunda

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It does sound disturbing.

But to objectively analyze it we need to know if it is a true bump in quality problems or a bump in reporting. How does today compare with Boeing's history for quality problems? How does it compare to other airplane manufacturers and industry norms? In other words, statistics rather than a handful of anecdotes.

The implication of the question is that there may be a common cause to the problems, and something that is new. The first step should be to make sure that there really is a common cause.
 

russ_watters

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Scrutiny, mostly.
I think this is most of it, yes. No company has a perfect culture and no design process is completely smooth. But when a big enough issue happens that the company comes under scrutiny, all dirty laundry - big or small - gets aired.

I'd also add that if these issues do prove to be unusual, complacency is a likely contributor. When you go a decade between crashes you start to feel invincible.
 
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I'd also add that if these issues do prove to be unusual, complacency is a likely contributor. When you go a decade between crashes you start to feel invincible.
Exactly. Success is a great cause of eventual failure and Boeing has had a long run.
 

sophiecentaur

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So are the inexorable laws of probability.
Those laws relate to memoryless systems. Boeing has memory so it probably has the dice loaded against it because memory can equal complacency when you're doing well.
 

russ_watters

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Those laws relate to memoryless systems. Boeing has memory so it probably has the dice loaded against it because memory can equal complacency when you're doing well.
True, but it also works for them, which is why the frequency of crashes has been dropping overall.
 

boneh3ad

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I would imagine that worker satisfaction is also important here. The trend economy-wide in recent years has been that wages have not risen like they once did, and this is especially true given the recession and trend toward opening plants in "right to work" states. In short, it's certainly plausible that lower-paid workers are more likely to fall into a complacency culture.

This is pure speculation, of course, so don't hold me to this as soon as someone throws actual data in my face.
 
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I would imagine that worker satisfaction is also important here. The trend economy-wide in recent years has been that wages have not risen like they once did, and this is especially true given the recession and trend toward opening plants in "right to work" states. In short, it's certainly plausible that lower-paid workers are more likely to fall into a complacency culture.

This is pure speculation, of course, so don't hold me to this as soon as someone throws actual data in my face.
The Seattle Times ran an article in January about Boeing eliminating QC positions in favor of automated systems. I could see how this would demoralize the remaining workforce and, depending how how effective the AI inspection automation is, possibly result in less effective overall quality control.
 

marcusl

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A lot of people are making up apologies for Boeing, but I say shame on Boeing, no excuses. I work for an aerospace company, and FOD (Foreign Object Debris) control is something everyone is trained on—even administrators who don’t come near the factory floor.

The Times article was frightening. One example: Razor-sharp metal shreds from sloppy holes punched in the frame are next to and sometimes rubbing against control cables. Awful and inexcusable.

To those who say it’s just a matter of increased scrutiny, note that their planes made at the Everett, WA facility are clean.

I don’t have much patience for those here who condone unsafe practices and products.
 

boneh3ad

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On the one hand, Boeing has a clear vested business interest in making sure their planes are safe, so I do tend to give them the benefit of the doubt that they believe their changes are safe. After all, their bottom line will (and is) suffering when issues arise. It's a business with little room for error.

That having been said, if you spend years on cruise control, it's easy to inadvertently get complacent and that can lead to catastrophe in this business. It's something they absolutely have to fix in great haste. They need to do some soul searching and change practices borne of complacency, while anyone who was promoting unsafe manufacturing practices like not reporting problems ought to be fired right away. Culture is set from the top.
 
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sophiecentaur

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Boeing has a clear vested business interest in making sure their planes are safe
That's a motherhood and apple pie thing. What is also important is for the decision makers to be making the right choices in the presence of other short term requirements of profits and sales. I am sure that the present problems will have put a bolt of lightning up their backsides. (And those of all the other plane makers too.)
 

boneh3ad

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That's a motherhood and apple pie thing. What is also important is for the decision makers to be making the right choices in the presence of other short term requirements of profits and sales. I am sure that the present problems will have put a bolt of lightning up their backsides. (And those of all the other plane makers too.)
I never said they didn't have other, sometimes-competing interests. However, ultimately a series of crashes is going to do more to their bottom line than several years of minor cost-cutting, so ultimately, I do trust that when they cut QC inspectors in favor of automation, they legitimately believe it will not be a safety issue. That doesn't mean they are or aren't correct.
 
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sophiecentaur

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I do trust that when they cut QC inspectors in favor of automation, they legitimately believe it will not be a safety issue.
I hope so too.!
 
I think there's more than one causes witch led on what is happened in the past and is happening again.

Law of average.
As Boeing is one of the two biggest airliner producer, Airbus the other, it's obvious that the more planes you sell the more trouble emerges, same thing we could see for automotive or electronics or any appliance you choose.

Advanced tech.
Introducing new technologies is always been a risk, having no history you can't make statistic, I remember that when CD was presented was described to be eternal duration, opposely to the fragile vinyls or tapes but, only some year after this bombastic affermation, bronzing defect appear in mass production.

Bad management.
This could be the most troublesome cause, bad or scarce quality control, poor risk management, hasty production, lower employee quality to reduce costs and so on, this is too long to analyze without a foot into Boeing.

Poor technology, ignorance.
As we have read, most FOD are made up of metal shreds coming from drilling, why the heck the don't have an suction system to directly eliminate shreds while working? The same can be done with tools, physically keeping them tied to the user, as is done when working at height, logically keeping them well accounted during all the processing phases.

Under pressure from competition.
Having been without serious competitors for years, when one appeared, they began to suffer pressure. The thing got worse when the competitor introduced technological innovations that were meeting the needs of the customers, Boeing was forced to do the same or better, forcing the introduction of novelties, this happened for the 767 and 777 and 787 and, lastly, for the 737 Max.

This is a long term trend, not something that happen yesterday, 767 was problematic and was introducted in 1982, the 777 the same, introduced in 1995, also 787, introducted only 8 year ago, has already a long list of worrysome problems.

In the case of KC-46 it's not only a problem of FOD, there's problem with boom design, often unable to generate sufficent thrust to push into the A-10, or the centerline drouge, experincing excessive tension doring during refuelling and thus disconnecting from reciever, this has happen with two F/A-18 and for boom camera, unable to offer a good view in some situation that are important to comply to be operative.

But to forgot how this plane has take live it's another example of very bad management. All start in 2002, with the choiche to acquire the tanker, at the time called KC-767, by Air Force Secretary James Roche in a lease, the then Senator John McCain kicked off an inquiry suspecting that was a this was sweethart deal for Boeing, and he had reason. The, at the time, senior Air Force procurement official was Darleen Druyun, she was found to deal a high-paying vice-president job in Boeing in change for various overpriced deals, KC-767, Small-Diameter Bomb, C-130 Avionics Modernization Program.

If someone have dubt that we have to have deep interest and exert high pressure to having the maximum level of quality when humans life are in the play, not for Boeing of for Airbus but versus anyone, I suggest to read last book by Richard Feynman, What Do You Care What Other People Think? where the first half is dedicated to his involvement on the Rogers Commission investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

If someone have curiosity to see a bit of statistics, in a handy way, I can suggest to look into this two sites:
Aviation Safety Network and Aeroinside.
If someone else prefer a more reliable sources, here are the two reference agency worldwide:
FAA and EASA.

I am always amazed how people like Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and his collaborators were able to design and make extremely complex, extremely high-performance and extremely functional airplanes, like the A-12/SR-71, in a short time and without the use of computers or other modern technologies without problems that now exist for decidedly simpler planes.

Edit reason: mistyped during.
 

anorlunda

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I tried visualizing myself as an outside consultant hired by Boeing to investigate all those issues and to generate a report with clear conclusions. Every one of these speculations is almost certainly partially true, but only partially. Pure black and white doesn't exist.

Even with an unlimited budget, unlimited time, and unfettered access to all sources of information, the assignment would appear very challenging.
 
Read well as Feynman has analyzed the problems and afterwards, only afterwards, he arrived at his conclusions aproximately, the mental speculations are fascinating but inconclusive, we must be more concrete when we face the problems of life in a concrete way, not speculating on purpose of the maximum systems.
 
Every one of these speculations is almost certainly partially true, but only partially.
Where would speculations be in what I wrote?
The only speculation that I have set out is that I think that problems with Boeing are due to more than one cause, individual causes exposed are all known and verifiable, in a concrete way, facts, well known and reported by the agencies in charge of controls and checks as FAA, EASA or the USAF.

Visualizing oneself is, on the other hand, a pure speculation without substance and, equally, a pure speculation is to consider a, fundamental, task impossible only because it's difficult. Following this kind of reasoning we could establish that air traffic control is an impossible task, so it would not make sense to do it, or that trying to identify the imprint of a black hole is too difficult, so why bother to try?

I am not a scientist and I do not have a vertical culture in any specific subject, nevertheless I never gave up and I will never surrender to something just because it is difficult or hard or dangerous, if it has to be done for the good of many I have never pulled back in front of anything and I will never do, but this is only my thought, everyone is free to act as he likes as long as he respect the will and freedom of others to the same extent.
 
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Every one of these speculations is almost certainly partially true, but only partially.
I think it'll be something to do with 'overmanagement': that's one thing known to kill responsibility.
 

russ_watters

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Where would speculations be in what I wrote?
The only speculation that I have set out is that I think that problems with Boeing are due to more than one cause, individual causes exposed are all known and verifiable, in a concrete way, facts, well known and reported by the agencies in charge of controls and checks as FAA, EASA or the USAF.
@anorlunda is right and I'll repeat: *everthing* you wrote appears to be speculation. You can say, for example, that bad management is a thing that often causes problems, but unless you have specific knowledge of management decisions Boeing made, you are speculating about how it could apply here.
 
Ok, I understand, here some proof on my affirmations of bad management from Boeing:

February 1988 - The Boeing 767 Program: A Case Study of Issues Related to Success in Managing an International Cooperative Project.
February 1989 - Boeing Faces Questions on Quality.
November 1999 - Crash highlights Boeing assembly line problems.
November 2004 - BOEING 767 TANKER LEASE - Congressional Record: November 20, 2004 (Senate).
December 2012 - Qatar Airways forced to ground new Boeing 787.
October 2018 - Boeing rocket for NASA over budget, could further delay launch: audit.
January 2019 - Boeing delivers first KC-46, but fixes to technical problems still years away.

Unfortunately I don't have time tonight and I can't go any further, but I would like to add that having a specific knowledge of the management decisions taken by Boeing is only possible from inside the Boeing itself.
Nevertheless, it is possible to deduce whether these decisions are valid or not from results that emerge in their businesses, quality of their products and customer satisfaction.
 

russ_watters

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Please keep this discussion current and on topic: a 30 year old management case study is not relevant here (though it is the type of thing we need). And the rest looks to all be the same issue: you can *speculate* that management problems played a role in the KC-46 delay, but you have no idea what they actually were....and that's not the 737Max.

The 737 Max is Boeing's Ford Pinto. For the next decade we're going to be receiving a steady trickle of information, some vague, some specific, most worthless.

But everything will come out; Congress will subpoena meeting minutes and release them to the press. The CEO will testify. They'll ask (for example) who made the decision not to test an aoa sensor failure during test flying and certification. Why? Was it at least simulated? Did anyone do a risk assessment of the MCAS? Did the aoa sensor failure come up?

We'll get every detail of what went into making these crashes happen, and then maybe they'll give it a section in engineering ethics textbooks. And my speculation is that this sounds like a small technical oversight. I doubt senior management played a big role in driving these decisions (unlike, say the Pinto or Space Shuttle Challenger). At most I suspect a vague culture of complacency was allowed to fester from the top. Similar to the Hyatt Reagency walkway collapse.
 

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