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Excessive Modularity Hindered Development of the 787 200

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the why-pay-engineers dept.
TAGmclaren writes "The Harvard Business Review is running a fascinating article exploring the issues facing Boeing's Dreamliner. Rather than simply blaming outsourcing, as much of the commentary has been focused on, the article delves into the benefits of integration and how being integrated when developing a new product gives engineers more degrees of freedom. From the article: 'Historically, Boeing understood that, and had worked with its subcontractors on that basis. If it was going to rely on them, it would provide them with detailed blueprints of the parts that were required — after Boeing had already created them. That, in turn, meant that Boeing had to design all the relevant pieces of the puzzle itself, first. But with the 787, it appears that Boeing tried a very different approach: rather than having the puzzle solved and asking the suppliers to provide a defined puzzle piece, they asked suppliers to create their own blueprints for parts. The puzzle hadn't been properly solved when Boeing asked suppliers for the pieces. It should come as little surprise then, that as the components came back from far-flung suppliers, for the first plane ever made of composite materials... those parts didn't all fit together. Time and cost blew out accordingly. It's easy to blame the outsourcing. But, in this instance, it wasn't so much the outsourcing, as it was the decision to modularize a complicated problem too soon.'"
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Excessive Modularity Hindered Development of the 787

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  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @10:56AM (#42737495)
    Elon Musk of Tesla Motors agrees with the un-safeness of these batteries.

    ..." Musk, who has run Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] for several years, laid out his thoughts on battery design in a detailed e-mail to the website Flightglobal.

    In it, he termed the architecture of the GS Yuasa battery packs supplied to Boeing "inherent unsafe," and predicted more fires from the same causes due to its design.

    Specifically, Musk criticized the use of large-format lithium-ion cells "without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect."

    He also noted that when thermal runaway occurs in the larger cells, more energy is released by the single cell than comes from a small-format "commodity" cell, of the type used by the thousands in Tesla battery packs.

    And he went on to highlight what he viewed as the dangers of batteries using those large-format cells, saying they have a "fundamental safety issue" because it's harder to keep the internal temperature of a large-format cell consistent from the center to the edges.

    Not surprisingly, Mike Sinnett--Boeing's chief engineer for the 787 project--counters that the company designed the pack to cope with not only a single cell failure but to contain runaway thermal events as well."

    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1082007_tesla-ceo-musk-boeing-787-batteries-inherently-unsafe [greencarreports.com]

  • Boeing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @11:01AM (#42737565)

    There was a short article on the Dreamliner in the latest New Yorker magazine REQUIEM FOR A DREAMLINER? . Quote Surowiecki :The Dreamliner was supposed to become famous for its revolutionary design. Instead, it’s become an object lesson in how not to build an airplane.
    To understand why, you need to go back to 1997, when Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas. Technically, Boeing bought McDonnell Douglas. But, as Richard Aboulafia, a noted industry analyst with the Teal Group, told me, “McDonnell Douglas in effect acquired Boeing with Boeing’s money.” McDonnell Douglas executives became key players in the new company, and the McDonnell Douglas culture, averse to risk and obsessed with cost-cutting, weakened Boeing’s historical commitment to making big investments in new products. Aboulafia says, “After the merger, there was a real battle over the future of the company, between the engineers and the finance and sales guys.” The nerds may have been running the show in Silicon Valley, but at Boeing they were increasingly marginalized by the bean counters.

    Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2013/02/04/130204ta_talk_surowiecki#ixzz2JTGx7SPc

  • Re:No specs? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @11:50AM (#42738067)

    Isn't that how all modern airliners are created? I'm trying to remember a documentary about the development of the A380, IIRC the entire thing was designed in CAD, the factories were then tooled and the first plane was created from parts from the same production line as the production run would come from.

    The Airbus also suffered from manufacturing problems as the German and Spanish facilities were using a different version of the CATIA CAD tool than the English and French facilities. This resulted in hilarity when modules from different locations did not mate as intended.

  • by Wilf_Brim (919371) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @12:07PM (#42738241)
    This. If you get the the bottom of TFA you see what really was driving the decisions about how to design and produce the 787. At the time of the critical decisions for the 787 the head honchos at Boeing were not really Boeing people (a corporation where the key competency for the last 60 years has been the production of profitable commercial airliners.) They came from McDonnell-Douglas, whose key competency was more in the production of military aircraft. The development process of current military hardware is intolerably broken. The old method of subcontracting the design of subsystems and then trying to get them to work together, then just getting more money from Uncle Sam when the result didn't work now results in the aforementioned F22 and F35 (the latter of which may never enter volume production, or at least some variants may not) because complexities have expanded, and costs have likewise increased exponentially. As it turns out, you can't do that with civilian airliners. There aren't friendly Senators and Representatives (whom you have paid off with campaign contributions and subcontractors in their district) to give you more money. And friendly Generals and Admirals (whom are expecting 6 and 7 figure jobs when they retire) who will accept your explanations why things aren't working correctly, and why it's going to be another 3 years to get their gizmo, which doesn't work quite as anticipated. You have shareholders who expect profit, airlines who expect a product in line with what they ordered and expect to pay, and regulators who do not take kindly to aircraft whose electronics bays burst into flames at odd times.

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