Thursday, February 09, 2006

This is the end. My only friend, the end.
Of our elaborate plans, the end.
Of everything that stands, the end.
No safety or surprise, the end.
I’ll never look into your eyes again.
- Jim Morrison

It is reported today that the very last MD95 a/k/a B717 is moving down the production line in Long Beach. When it's delivered, that will end commercial aircraft manufacturing in Southern California, most likely forever if the Northern Colossus has anything to say about it.

Once the epicenter of production knowhow in the field, this is the end of it all. All of it. Every last vestige will have been eradicated. The empty halls and cavernous buildings that housed an industry that was second to none in the entire world will soon echo to little more than the footfalls of the occasional gawker and the cooing of pigeons, many of whom lived in the rafters of the Douglas plant.

An entire industry has been wiped out. Gone. Finis. Terminated with extreme prejudice. Renditioned. Strangled and left to die.

It is reported by Boeing press release that "the 717 program helped shape Boeing business practices through its supplier partnerships and applying principles of lean manufacturing."

I guess that's so, if you rationalize your supplier partnerships by eliminating every one of them, and you believe that the leanest of lean manufacturing is no manufacturing at all. If you follow that line of reasoning, the best employee is no employee at all.

There are some lessons to be learned here. It's still too early to set them down in their definitive form, but the outlines are emerging from the happy haze of last year's order book. If I was a Boeing worker bee, I'd look to my finances, pay down my debts, and start thinking about what I'd do if I lost my job. If this can happen in Long Beach, nobody's safe.


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