787 Supply Chain Interrupts Production

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Problems with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner's far-flung supply chain are now causing parts shortages that have translated into an early delay in the airliner's production. The company has announced that Dreamliners number 23 and 24 will be held up for about 24 days as it attempts to resolve production or delivery problems at a small number of the program's many, often distant, small parts suppliers. Boeing did not indicate that the interruption would result in any short-term layoffs. There are currently 866 of the jets on order and Boeing was, until this interruption, answering that with two finished Dreamliners per month even as flight testing continues. The manufacturer didn't name names, but last year bought Vought Aircraft Industries in Charleston, S.C., after that supplier failed to meet the 787 program's demands. The Wall Street Journal reported that the former Vought facility and a Dreamliner parts supplier in Italy have been involved in recent supply chain kinks.

Unlike its other popular jet lines, Boeing does not build 787s from scratch at Everett, Wash. Dreamliners arrive to the production line in largely completed sections flown in every 10-or-so days, via modified 747s. It completes the large component assemblies with parts that originate from suppliers as far off as Italy and Japan. A second production facility, expected to go on line in 2012, is being built in Charleston, S.C.. The state is giving Boeing $270 million raised from bonds to help build the $750 million plant. Boeing hopes to step up production to about seven per month before hitting a goal of 10 per month in 2013.