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

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mcrae0104

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Sitting by a nice fire in a historic inn about 7 miles out of Cimarron, NM, sipping a CR and listening to some nice music, when I saw an old issue of The New York Times Magazine with a cover story about the Boeing 737 MAX, dated September 22, 2019.

Most of you probably read it back then, and I hate to give them credit, but it is a pretty good article.

BJC
Cimarron is a cool place. Enjoy your stay, and if you're able, the Phillips compound (that's a house, not a refinery) at the scout ranch is worth a look.
 
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BJC

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Cimarron is a cool place. Enjoy your stay, and if you're able, the Phillips compound (that's a house, not a refinery) at the scout ranch is worth a look.
Thanks. Other guests as well as the inn keeper recommended the same thing. We came here from Bartlesville, OK, where we visited my wife’s elderly second cousin. His father worked for Frank Phillips (a brother) at Phillips Petroleum. The Phillips brothers did lots of good.


BJC
 

Pilot-34

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Rubbish.

You have no evidence that this "major initiative" has anything to do with bad management or deceiving the FAA.
What’s your point he never said it did.
Why would you insult him for his clear insight?
It is basic common sense that one thing cannot be a priority if something else is the priority.
It’s like those stupid ads where somebody claims to specialize in everything
 

David L. Downey

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well, Wanttaja, that might be true for where you served Boeing. You were more fortunate than I.
I was in materials and processes engineering for 36 years at Boeing PHL (through 4 company name changes) and watched with horror as the focus degenerated from selling a top notch engineered/proven package (at a fair/good profit) to delivering crap for a huge profit (fortunately the military customer qualifications changed just as rapidly as those within the company management and to a lesser degree, our technical staff).
Every year at the Christmas party (until it was outlawed for PC reasons?) we would sit there one year older and reflect on the plunge experienced in the year and come to the conclusion that "it can't get worse". Every year for at least the last 20 years. I was glad that they gave me an opportunity to bail while my chute was still not on fire.
Back in the early 80s when I started there we had little diversity in evidence, but we did have women and minorities in technical positions - including leadership. But during that period they were by and large as competent as the majority. Meritocracy works. Every time. Over the years that all changed to a women driven, minority laden structure where technical excellence was given lip sevice but hiring was all about degrees and checking the boxes. everything we designed, developed, or built was heavily affected by the french pastry of incompetence - and the blissful and self-confident ignorance of that incompetence. The McDonnel buy out of Boeing using Boeing's own money did not help. We ended up with upper management that implemented almost all of McD's business killing prosesses.
 

Rhino

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After approximately 1000 airplanes, the "new airplane growing pains" argument doesn't hold up....
Sure it does. How many aircraft or production changes have been made during that time? How many large body airliner manufacturers produce thousands of airplanes without experiencing problems like this? None. I've worked large aircraft. Although thankfully not frequent, production issues like this are not all that unusual, no matter who the manufacturer is. Boeing has plenty of problems to be sure, some of which you pointed out. My point was that much of the recent hype over problems at Boeing had been exactly that, media hype. And that's absolutely true.
 

AeroER

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Revisions and redesigns are not new airplanes entering the fleet.

There's an old 747 document aimed mostly at the design staff, but also the strength and fatigue engineers, with examples of cracked structure, a warning to avoid that detail, and the fix.

The trouble is, the designers will always draw the quick and dirty to meet schedule, and most strength guys go along with it instead of designing out the detail - because it's the fastest way out, not a good balance of structural integrity, cost, and weight, and generally cost and weight are not increased except for the redesign time.

Another part of that issue is that most designers wouldn't know a stress concentration or a poor detail with secondary moments leading to cracks if they fell on them, and they don't care or want to know.

So, the old problems from old projects are incorporated into the new. Now the use of large machined parts to replace sheet metal assemblies introduce new details that are at least equally poorly considered.

I'll speculate that the 787 has plenty more gremlins that haven't disclosed themselves. We'll wait; it's the certain way to bet.

With respect to the Philadelphia office, I had a great professional relationship with a senior engineer that helped me considerably with the sizing of splined shafts for an application with zero fat in the volume available or the actuator output shaft.
 
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Wanttaja

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well, Wanttaja, that might be true for where you served Boeing. You were more fortunate than I.
I was in materials and processes engineering for 36 years at Boeing PHL (through 4 company name changes) and watched with horror as the focus degenerated from selling a top notch engineered/proven package (at a fair/good profit) to delivering crap for a huge profit (fortunately the military customer qualifications changed just as rapidly as those within the company management and to a lesser degree, our technical staff).
Every year at the Christmas party (until it was outlawed for PC reasons?) we would sit there one year older and reflect on the plunge experienced in the year and come to the conclusion that "it can't get worse". Every year for at least the last 20 years. I was glad that they gave me an opportunity to bail while my chute was still not on fire.
Back in the early 80s when I started there we had little diversity in evidence, but we did have women and minorities in technical positions - including leadership. But during that period they were by and large as competent as the majority. Meritocracy works. Every time. Over the years that all changed to a women driven, minority laden structure where technical excellence was given lip sevice but hiring was all about degrees and checking the boxes. everything we designed, developed, or built was heavily affected by the french pastry of incompetence - and the blissful and self-confident ignorance of that incompetence. The McDonnel buy out of Boeing using Boeing's own money did not help. We ended up with upper management that implemented almost all of McD's business killing prosesses.
Oh, we aren't in that much of disagreement. I've posted a number of times about Boeing's problems directly stemming from the McD merger. My own (Seattle-based) space group was put under the control of the LA-based former McD space operations, and they seemed to be scheming continually to shut us down. I worked a proposal in ~2000 where we were bluntly told that if we won, ALL work would be done in LA, and if we wanted to stay employed, we would have to move down there. Not much motivation to win that one. Work was interrupted by the engineer's strike, and a bunch of folks I knew took advantage to go find better jobs. Including me, for a couple of years. LA eventually "sowed the fields with salt" by destroying all the space-related test facilities up here, including the three-story tall vacuum chamber used on Lunar Orbiter and countless other programs.
lunar orbiter vacuum.JPG

Never was involved in outside hiring, but interviewed a number of folks within Boeing interested in transferring into our group (2010 timeframe). Never had any sort of race/sex/origin/orientation factors involved. Just, who was best to do the **** job?

Worked with a number of female engineers over the years (nowhere near 50%, though) and most of them were very sharp. About 2007, my group brought in a female new-hire and I was one of her mentors. When I retired ten years later, she was my boss. Proudest day of my life. She's currently a director.

Ron Wanttaja
 

AeroER

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I can tell you the view from St. Louis after Boeing took over MDA was considerably different.

In late '98 or '99 I was getting lunch in the cafeteria at the Development Center next to the Duwamish. After the cashier learned I was from St. Louis, I'm certain she charged me for my silverware after a short rant about Harry Stonecipher. Just in case you didn't know, he was not popular at MDA beforehand.

The facilities loss was not limited to sites in the PNW. We **** near lost a national asset in the Polyasonic Tunnel, and we did lose several small materials labs located in buildings where advanced design work was underway. Boeing sent a woman to the sites to evaluate "need", and she was not concerned about details, only the appearance of cost.

On another hand, while I was working the JSF proposal, we used the bed of a gantry mill in the 9-101 building as the horizontal datum for our bond tools, and I used one of the B-2 autoclaves as an oven for a bond tool that would fit in the bed of a full size pickup.

I love the auto-censorship. First time I have seen that in an online forum.
 

David L. Downey

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Oh, we aren't in that much of disagreement. I've posted a number of times about Boeing's problems directly stemming from the McD merger. My own (Seattle-based) space group was put under the control of the LA-based former McD space operations, and they seemed to be scheming continually to shut us down. I worked a proposal in ~2000 where we were bluntly told that if we won, ALL work would be done in LA, and if we wanted to stay employed, we would have to move down there. Not much motivation to win that one. Work was interrupted by the engineer's strike, and a bunch of folks I knew took advantage to go find better jobs. Including me, for a couple of years. LA eventually "sowed the fields with salt" by destroying all the space-related test facilities up here, including the three-story tall vacuum chamber used on Lunar Orbiter and countless other programs.
View attachment 117057

Never was involved in outside hiring, but interviewed a number of folks within Boeing interested in transferring into our group (2010 timeframe). Never had any sort of race/sex/origin/orientation factors involved. Just, who was best to do the **** job?

Worked with a number of female engineers over the years (nowhere near 50%, though) and most of them were very sharp. About 2007, my group brought in a female new-hire and I was one of her mentors. When I retired ten years later, she was my boss. Proudest day of my life. She's currently a director.

Ron Wanttaja
that is funny! I trained the sharpest young engineer I had ever worked with and she became my manager as well!!! And, to my view, the excellence lever of the younger generation engineers was dominated by females. The guys just did not seem to get it...or care about it.
 

BJC

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And, to my view, the excellence lever of the younger generation engineers was dominated by females. The guys just did not seem to get it...or care about it.
My experience (not in aerospace, but I have worked for, worked with, managed, hired and fired over the full spectrum) was that gender was not a factor that influenced engineering skills. Nor was age. Nor was ethnicity.

However, it was easy to tell which engineering school the engineer attended. Even then, the two primary indicators of success were the individual’s commitment to excellence and his or her IQ.

The biggest mistake, wrt selecting engineering managers, is selecting a supervisor or manager based solely on the candidate’s technical skills. Managing is an additional, requisite, skill set.


BJC
 

AeroER

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My experience (not in aerospace, but I have worked for, worked with, managed, hired and fired over the full spectrum) was that gender was not a factor that influenced engineering skills. Nor was age. Nor was ethnicity.

However, it was easy to tell which engineering school the engineer attended. Even then, the two primary indicators of success were the individual’s commitment to excellence and his or her IQ.

The biggest mistake, wrt selecting engineering managers, is selecting a supervisor or manager based solely on the candidate’s technical skills. Managing is an additional, requisite, skill set.


BJC
I'll recommend selecting leaders. Those are rare at Boeing, very few are more than bean counters for the bean counters and schedule watchers. Especially those with no, or no relevant, engineering experience.

The claim, "Any manager is able to manage any group" is flatly and demonstrably false.
 

Rhino

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I'll recommend selecting leaders. Those are rare at Boeing, very few are more than bean counters for the bean counters and schedule watchers. Especially those with no, or no relevant, engineering experience.

The claim, "Any manager is able to manage any group" is flatly and demonstrably false.
That is true of so many companies. It seems to get more prevalent as the size of the company increases. That's why I always preferred working for small companies.
 

PiperCruisin

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I think someone's ability to manage others is over-rated. A good manager, to me, is one that can shield me from ridiculous requests/requirements from other managers so I could do my job.

Management is too often dominated by selfish motivations to meet metrics versus what is in the long-term best interest of the company.

The customer wants X, sales wants to provide it, engineering thinks it's a bad idea, engineering is ignored or engineering management is too afraid to protest. Disaster slowly unfolds. I'm guessing this basically what happened at Boeing. Seen it countless times.
 

Vigilant1

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Management is too often dominated by selfish motivations to meet metrics versus what is in the long-term best interest of the company.
If the metrics (explicit and implicit) aren't congruent with what is in the long term best interest of the company, then this is a more important problem than the motivations of individuals. Get the goals, measurements, and rewards right and the individual motivations will align with the best interests of the company and there's no need to hire angels or psychics. But, there's always a need to hire and reward people who are competent and (especially) honest.
 

Wanttaja

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I'll recommend selecting leaders. Those are rare at Boeing, very few are more than bean counters for the bean counters and schedule watchers. Especially those with no, or no relevant, engineering experience.
Yep. Leaders are rare among the managers at Boeing. Most seem to be able to muddle along, especially with the support of their senior engineers. But yet, I sense that the "fun" seems to go away, when an engineer becomes a manager. I've had two of my managers actually give up their management positions and revert back to being engineers. Don't think it had anything to do with managing me. I don't think. :)

Main issue, I believe, was all the HR BS that goes with manager's rank at Boeing. Not being able to fully express themselves (have to support corporate policy, no matter how stupid it is), have to fight twice a year when it came down to ranking the engineers for promotion or potential layoff.

Overtime might well be part of it, too. Engineers at Boeing get paid for overtime, and the contract restricts how much they can be required to work. IIRC, first-level managers have limits on what overtime they can be paid for, and certainly no power to be able to turn it down.

Ex-military officers tended to be autocratic, and didn't get a lot of support from the people that worked for them. There were some exceptions, though, I remember one retired light colonel who really did well.

The worst were those who hired on as engineers solely to switch to management as soon as they could. Technically inept, and too busy trying to get promoted.

And...for full disclosure, I have to reveal that, at one point in my checkered past, I *was* a manager. Left Boeing after the engineer's strike, went to work for a startup company handling planning and documentation for a new consumer product. The lead engineer for the program was absolutely brilliant but had zero people skills. Because he was so fundamental to the company futures, he was a high-level manager. Because he couldn't handle people, they gave me a management title under him and I handled the "people" stuff as well as my main tasks. Had some impressive title..."New Technology Manager," or something like that.

The claim, "Any manager is able to manage any group" is flatly and demonstrably false.
I'm not a big fan of absolutes, and there's a lot more involved here than meets the eye. For the last ~25 years of my Boeing career, I was the leader of Integrated Product Teams. Basically, the manager handled the "managing" and the IPT leader handled the technical stuff. I always worked with my managers to keep them fully up to speed (especially since they often had to give status updates to their bosses) and, of course, discussed potential issues and solutions. I told them they had the same rights as British royalty: The right to be informed, the right to advise, and the right to be seen. :)

Worked pretty good....produced ~10 spacecraft on time and on budget.

In the course of my work, I came across a neat description of IPT leaders. I'll end with it...

IPT Leaders​

“If you get in my way, I’ll kill you!”
  • Ideal IPT Leader
“If you get in my way, you’ll kill me!”
  • Somewhat less than ideal IPT Leader
“If I get in my way, I’ll kill you!”
  • Somewhat misguided IPT Leader
“If I get in your way, I’ll kill you!”
  • Tough IPT Leader
“If get kill in will way I you….”
  • Dyslexic, functionally illiterate IPT Leader
“Get away, I’ll kill us all!”
  • Suicidal IPT Leader
“If you kill me, I’ll get in your way.”
  • Thoughtful yet ineffective IPT Leader
“If I kill you, I’ll get in your way.”
  • IPT Leader who has problems dealing with the obvious
“If’a you get inna my way, I’m a gonna break you arm!
  • IPT Leader from Chicago
“I am quite confident that there is nothing in the way, so no one will get killed.”
  • IPT Leader who is about to get in big trouble
“If you kill me, so what? If you get in my way, who cares?”
  • Weak, uninspired IPT Leader
“If you kill me, you’ll get your way.”
  • Pragmatic IPT Leader
“I am the way! Kill me if you can!”
  • Messianic IPT Leader

Ron Wanttaja
 

PiperCruisin

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If the metrics (explicit and implicit) aren't congruent with what is in the long term best interest of the company, then this is a more important problem than the motivations of individuals.
I don't have a problem with a few targeted metrics, but I've had a project where there were 100+ metrics. Metrics are quality checks which are non-value added. Product development is not linear. The design activities should be dedicated to iterations and not generating metrics to spin a story about how swell things are going. What would Clarence Kelly Johnson think of our current processes that "committees never do anything completely wrong, but they never do anything brilliant either.”
 

Pilot-34

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Once again I am left wondering why it is the companies insist on promoting someone who is brilliant at Apples into a position with oranges.
Would it kill them to acknowledge said apples and oranges are fundamentally similar And if they give a raise to the Apple position The company will not die and the Apple position may be better served.
 

Pilot-34

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Long ago before the companies chopped up the job ladder and sold it for firewood it was not uncommon for a excellent truck drivers to be promoted to a dispatcher position they are fundamentally different and often this created a really lousy dispatcher and resulted in hiring a crappy truck driver.
 

Rhino

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Once again I am left wondering why it is the companies insist on promoting someone who is brilliant at Apples into a position with oranges...
The Peter Principle, a process with a long and storied history.
 
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