More problems for the "B Team" from ST. Louis

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patrickrio

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The key is moving back to

"Engineers make the best planes they can with the available resources and the finance guys help them do it"

from the current

"Finance guys take control to wring every penny of profit they can from an airplane manufacturing company"

With that change, you can move forward in every other area of thinking and method of operation.

The grey haired engineers just need to come back and teach the whipper snappers how to act when you are in charge instead of how you act if you are beat on the job daily. The whipper snapper engineers have never worked in an environment where engineers are in control and won't know how.
 
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Topaz

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No, they need to pull the old gray haired 707 and 727 and 747 engineers out of retirement and put them back into their old jobs. Boeing's only viable path forward is to go backward in terms of their entire thinking and methods of operation.
I don't think engineering talent is really the problem here. Knowing someone who used to work at Boeing in the Defense division as an engineer until the last year or so, I believe that the real problem is considerably higher on the pay-scale. Imagine a department with about thirty people having its staff cut in chunks down to two, with the same project scope and project deadline. Massive overtime becomes a way of life and, with that kind of fatigue and endless grind, mistakes happen. Those are the kind of problems that Boeing is facing, and I'll venture a guess that it's not just in one division, and not just in Engineering either.
 

patrickrio

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I don't think engineering talent is really the problem here. Knowing someone who used to work at Boeing in the Defense division as an engineer until the last year or so, I believe that the real problem is considerably higher on the pay-scale. Imagine a department with about thirty people having its staff cut in chunks down to two, with the same project scope and project deadline. Massive overtime becomes a way of life and, with that kind of fatigue and endless grind, mistakes happen. Those are the kind of problems that Boeing is facing, and I'll venture a guess that it's not just in one division, and not just in Engineering either.
Yep... I grew up in the Seattle area and have known Boeing engineers my whole life. I was trying to be funny, but the issue is that what you describe above has been going on for a generation at Boeing now. The lead engineers that have been promoted are the ones that succeed(or don't sink) in that environment. That engineer is likely a different engineer than would have been the best leader before. So, the engineer you may want in charge doesn't have developed leadership skills. The engineers below have grown up in a different environment too.

The engineers have the ABILITY to do the engineering but now lack the long term training and leadership to succeed best in an environment where engineers are in charge. Even if the environment changed back immediately, it would take YEARS for them to recover.

Just like it took years for the worst effects of the current Finance controlled management to show.....

I bet this is going to be a cautionary case study in all MBA programs AND masters in engineering programs in the future.
 
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Victor Bravo

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Boeing transport airplane and defense divisions represent a significant chunk of America's GNP. So if Boeing fails or becomes a second-rate player in these industries (because of this 'case study in poor business practice'), it's not exactly going to be a small blow to the nation's economy, or our ability to remain a world leader. I'm kinda worried.
 

Topaz

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Boeing transport airplane and defense divisions represent a significant chunk of America's GNP. So if Boeing fails or becomes a second-rate player in these industries (because of this 'case study in poor business practice'), it's not exactly going to be a small blow to the nation's economy. I'm kinda worried.
I'm not sure "if" is the right word to use here, VB. "When" or "now that" seem more appropriate the way things on the 737MAX, 787, KC-46, SLS, and Starliner programs have been going the last few years.
 

patrickrio

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It looks bad right now from the outside. We can't tell from the outside how bad it really is though. Hopefully it's just a really rough patch.

Since it is still very much a finance managed/controlled company, It's hard to tell if they learned a lesson or if they are already beyond the ability to learn such a lesson.

The reptilian part of my brain blames McDonnell Douglas!!! No way MY neighbors and friends f'd this up!!! (now I live in the NYC area though and most of my Seattle neighbors are retired....)
 
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Victor Bravo

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Gub-Mint regulators stepping in and preventing the MBA's from over-riding the engineers. Federal courts holding executives and shareholders financially responsible for putting a "critical component of national infrastructure and industry" at risk. Courts forcibly removing the company's insurance protection where engineers were over-ridden by financiers. All tax breaks and investment credits taken back by the fed in any case where national interests (public safety, jobs, liabilities, world standing) have been damaged by the corporate leadership.

Sounds like an Orwellian nightmare, with a foreword by Ayn Rand, and they did it to themselves.

My point is to punish the individuals whose decisions caused it, burn down their golden parachutes, strip away all corporate veil protection because of what is actually at stake (national security can be breached/threatened/exploited economically, children).
 

patrickrio

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My point is to punish the individuals whose decisions caused it, burn down their golden parachutes, strip away all corporate veil protection because of what is actually at stake (national security can be breached/threatened/exploited economically, children).
I am not sure Red Govt, Blue Govt or Purple Govt are capable of punishing business leaders like this anymore.
 

Topaz

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... My point is to punish the individuals whose decisions caused it, burn down their golden parachutes, strip away all corporate veil protection because of what is actually at stake (national security can be breached/threatened/exploited economically, children).
At the rate they (Boeing) are going, the market will take care of all of that for you. I mean, it's not like Boeing doesn't have very competent competition in every single one of these markets. You can only keep screwing up this badly for so long before people start buying elsewhere.
 

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There's a mistake in the first paragraph of that article.

"Boeing (BA) on Tuesday disclosed a new issue with the 787 Dreamliner widebody jet, which has been dogged with problems since August."

It should read:

"Boeing (BA) on Tuesday disclosed a new issue with the 787 Dreamliner widebody jet, which has been dogged by excessive media reporting of problems since August."

Seriously, there has never been an aircraft development program without numerous problems. And with the increasing complexity of commercial aircraft, it's perfectly logical for such problems to increase. I'm not saying Boeing is not without problems, but much of the concern over their development efforts the past couple of years is as much attributable to increased media attention, sometimes to the point of near hysteria, as it is to their own mistakes.
 
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Topaz

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... Seriously, there has never been an aircraft development program without numerous problems. And with the increasing complexity of commercial aircraft, it's perfectly logical for such problems to increase. I'm not saying Boeing is not without problems, but much of the concern over their development efforts the past couple of years is as much attributable to increased media attention, sometimes to the point of near hysteria, as it is to their own mistakes.
Yes, media hyperbole is a problem. No doubt about that.

So is finding tools and other "debris" in closed and signed-off fuel tanks (787, KC-46), additionally finding "human waste" (more-succinctly phrased as "excrement") in closed and signed-off fuel tanks and fuselage structures (KC-46), out-of-tolerance joining of major fuselage components (787), massive paper-washing of testing and certification protocols (737MAX), an in-flight refueling system not fit for purpose and now on its third round of redesign (KC-46), inadequate or non-existent end-to-end software testing on real-world hardware that almost caused loss-of-vehicle in its only flight test (Starliner), budget overruns amounting to billions and schedule delays approaching decades (SLS), and a management team that keeps saying they'll "fix the problems" and yet the problems keep coming up. 787 and KC-46 are on their second and third round of in-tank debris issues, respectively, this is the second round of fuselage joining issues for 787. SLS and Starliner are, respectively, becoming textbook examples of how not to do large-project hardware and software development.

Yes, there's been media hyperbole, but the problems are real, too, and sweeping under the rug hasn't helped fix them, much as Boeing's leadership keeps trying that tactic. My friend worked for Boeing and had a front-row seat to what's causing these problems. He doesn't work there anymore, and he moved on for a reason. It wasn't "media hyperbole."
 

Rhino

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Tragically, none of that is anything new. We even had crap like that happening in the Air Force back in the 70s and 80s. Fuel cells got a bit better in the 90s, but stupidity is sadly never an eradicated disease.
 

Topaz

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"Human waste" in closed-out and signed-off fuel tanks and between fuselage frames is a new one on me, especially when it continues after the client refuses to accept delivery of tails because of it.

So is running a real spaceflight test with no meaningful hardware-in-the-loop software testing, such that the onboard main-mission clock ened up being off 11 hours because nobody thought to see if the launch vehicle initialized its timing at launch or at power-up. The design team assumed it was the former and never checked the assumption. Turned out it was the latter, and the Orion vehicle's main mission timer was eleven hours off at the moment of launch. That and the thruster controller meant to fire the service module thrusters once the Command module separated (to move the two modules apart) was set to fire the thrusters in the opposite direction and crash the former into the latter. That got caught after launch when the engineering team did a full review of the critical flight software after the timing problems came up.

These aren't "normal development problems."
 

Victor Bravo

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The 737 MAX issue was (apparently) that the engineers said they knew the airplane needed a taller main gear, which would need a redesign of the center section. The management said no, there will be no new center section, just move the (enormous) nacelles up closer to the wing. Some stupid mother-!(#*&$ said they could band-aid fix it with software, so the bean counters went with the software instead of what was the best aircraft.

That is major systemic problem, MBA's and bean counters giving orders and over-riding things that engineers know is wrong. Whether the media went ape-s**t over it or not is secondary.

If the MBA's lost their salary for a year, AND went to jail for a couple of months, AND had to look the children of the crash victims in the eye at the funeral, then and only then would that s**t not happen. The fact that insurance covered the losses, and the MBA's were not held personally liable, and kept their salaries, is what will make this problem happen next time.

OR, the short version... sometimes misbehaving children need to be spanked hard enough so they don't steal the apple off of the fruit stand again.
 

patrickrio

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The structural problem is really that our current system rewards those playing money games MUCH more than we reward those who make reliable stuff. The last time I checked, about 30% of the dollars generated in our economy are via the Finance/Banking/Investment/Management industries. The percent of the economy generated by these activities has just about tripled since I started college.

I am not sure penalizing the MBAs for failing works, because we rarely penalize MBAs so the perceived risk is low. Even if we upped the perceived risk, the rewards are SO high, finding new MBAs to "roll the dice" is easy.

Even then, in my experience, the business leaders who ACTUALLY make the decisions also are mostly insulated from proof that they made those decisions. The guys that wrote the memos and actually did the work are the ones you catch; and they were following the orders of someone else you will probably never pin down.
 
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Rhino

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..So is running a real spaceflight test with no meaningful hardware-in-the-loop software testing, such that the onboard main-mission clock ened up being off 11 hours because nobody thought to see if the launch vehicle initialized its timing at launch or at power-up. The design team assumed it was the former and never checked the assumption. Turned out it was the latter, and the Orion vehicle's main mission timer was eleven hours off at the moment of launch....
You should read up on the original space programs. Remember the line in Apollo 13? 'Tell me this isn't a government program'. Or something like that. But it wasn't the government making the stupid mistakes. It was the contractors. You're absolutely right that some of this stuff is unheard of, but so was everything else over the years when it happened for the first time. When it comes right down to it, the bigger the program, public or private sector, the more likely it is that stupid stuff will happen. Add bureaucrats into that mix and it gets exponentially, which is the main reason why government programs are so often a disaster. And don't even get me started on when politicians get involved. But like I said, I'm not claiming Boeing is blameless for some of the stupidity, or even maybe for the majority. I'm just saying we're much more aware of it to a large degree because of the rampant press coverage, and that all this stuff isn't a phenomenon in any way new, or unique to Boeing.
 

Topaz

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You should read up on the original space programs. ...
I have. Extensively. The mess that was the LM is approaching some of the problems that Boeing is having. But these aren't designing an entire new class of flight vehicle for the first time ever. The issues with the KC-46 are on a 767 derivative, and the 767 first flew in 1981. The lack of hardware-in-the-loop software testing on Starliner is absolutely inexcusable.

I agree that increased media coverage is a factor in the spread of the stories, but that doesn't make the stories any less true, and these are not problems that Boeing has dealt with in the past. Talking directly with someone who worked there since the early '90's until last year, things have changed at Boeing, and far, Far, FAR for the worse.
 
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