Monday, July 24, 2006

Now THIS is Starting to Make Sense

There is a most interesting article in Flight International about the production problems that the A380 has been having. In an unusual departure from past protestations of the "alles in ordnung"type from Festung Airbus, a reporter was given access to an as yet uncompleted A380 to see for himself what the ruckus was all about.

And, as I may have opined here or over on a while ago, the real snag happens to be out of position work.

Let me explain.

Production of a large commercial aircraft is based on a rigid schedule-line moves every so often. Where this gets problematic is in the issue of progress payments. If the line doesn't move, the builder doesn't get paid. Companies like Douglas were known to move aircraft when they had a case of the shorts, but the worst examples I'd heard about were when Rockwell was making the B-1 in Palmdale, and they'd move aircraft that had the wing planks held on with Clecoes to get progress payments-no wonder the sucker's leak more fuel than a Saudia line truck.

What this causes is sort of a snowball effect, as people who need to get their leftover work done, have to work around people involved on present taskwork, and often times they have to remove present taskwork to access areas that should have been closed out weeks or months ago.

It's what we called 'out of position' work at Douglas and it was a royal pain in the butt.

Now it seems that it's the same problem occurring at the Festung, according to Andreas Fehring, a program management person with the company. Large subassemblies from the outplants were shipped to Toulouse in an uncompleted state rather than slow down production. The problem snowballed when it was discovered, and things got rapidly worse from there.

I recall a similar fiasco at Douglas. One of the first milestones was "oil on": powering up the hydraulic system in the prototype MD11 number 447. It was pushed by management, and they did, by God, get oil on. The cost was, of course, a massive amount of rework. The team I was on wrote better than forty major defect reports (FRR-SR) in a three foot section of plumbing in the cargo hold. Sounds like this is at the root of the snags at Airbus.

Now THIS is a story I can understand.


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