Boeing’s 787 partners struggle with deadlines

Airline maker Boeing’s main Japanese industrial partners on the new 787 Dreamliner are struggling to meet strict production deadlines as they try to cope with the new technologies and materials required, according to a report in the Financial Times newspaper today. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Fuji Heavy Industries are Boeing’s lead industrial partners on the 787 and have the job of manufacturing some 35 pct of the airframe.

However, the FT claims that Kawasaki and Fuji have been unable to complete their respective work on the fuselage and the centre wing box in time for their deadline this month. As such, many parts were shipped to South Carolina incomplete on Jan 12.

‘Some of the work that was planned to be done in Japan travelled to South Carolina. Some of this was systems installation work,’ a Boeing spokeswoman told the FT. ‘This was part of our contingency plan.’

Kawasaki and Fuji yesterday declined to comment on whether the work had been completed.

Analysts told the FT that the Japanese groups are struggling to work with a greater ratio of carbon-fibre materials and also face a shortage of manpower.


‘The costs for the 787 project are mounting for the Japanese heavy companies, and there are not enough people currently to produce at a pace which Boeing is aiming for in the future,’ Taku Ouchi, analyst at Nikko Citigroup in Tokyo told the FT. ‘At most, Mitsubishi Heavy would be capable of producing 10 [wing] units a month, which would require at least an extra 166 mln usd to 249 mln usd in capital investment.’

Jim McNerney, Boeing’s chief executive, said on Wednesday that half of the eight contingency plans Boeing had prepared last year in case of production problems had now been launched.

Boeing, however, has vowed that it will meet its first delivery deadline of May 2008 for All Nippon Airways. It is maintaining strict deadlines and has dispatched engineers to help its Japanese partners, in a bid to avoid the costly delays that have been so problematic for Airbus’s flagship A380 superjumbo.