During late 2011, Boeing finally began shipment of their latest aircraft, the 787 ‘Dreamliner’. Three years late and massively over budget, the Dreamliner has had a troubled route to market but Boeing executives are convinced that the changes the technological and manufacturing advances made during the project, coupled with their new approach to supply chain management will reap major benefits in the future.
Prior to the Dreamliner, Boeing bought parts from suppliers before assembling the finished aircraft themselves. The 787 project however required suppliers to design and build major sections of the aircraft before delivering them to Boeing. The ultimate goal was to reduce the final assembly time by Boeing to just three days.
To make this ambitious plan a reality, Boeing implemented a collaboration hub which would bring together all 34,000 suppliers involved with producing parts for the Dreamliner. The system allows suppliers access to real time data to ensure that every single part is assembled in the correct order and delivered on time; with a three day assembly window, timing of deliveries is critical so that everything is in place at the right time.
The centralised data system means that every member of the supply chain is immediately aware of any potential delays and can adjust their assembly and delivery schedules accordingly. As the primary buyer, Boeing are able to gain an instant overview of the entire supply chain, so that parts are only ordered as requested and helping to speed payment of invoices between suppliers.
One of the most notable aspects of Boeing’s new supply chain management platform is that it is not reliant on every supplier having the same ERP systems in place in their businesses. Instead of using a proprietary EDI format to join inventory and accounts systems, the new Boeing platform collects and retains information in the online hub.
Although Boeing’s new cloud-based supply chain management system has revolutionised the way that the business operates in terms of efficiencies and future cost savings, there remains room for improvement. Using a platform which allows for transparent data transfer between ERP systems would further reduce complexity and potential data duplication between onsite systems and Boeing’s portal. Time will tell whether Boeing’s supply chain management system undergoes such an evolution.
January 17, 2012 in
Cloud Computing, ERP, Integrated Supply Chain Management Platform, Supply Chain Integration, Supply Chain Management