August 2012

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Bombardier's CSeries chief has strong words for Alenia

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CSeries-Empennage_560.jpgDuring a visit to Montreal last week, I had an opportunity to discuss the progress of the CSeries with Bombardier vice president of commercial aircraft programs Ben Boehm and we covered a lot of ground in the interview, including the latest on the airframer's sales campaign with Gulf Air, progress on the PW1524G engine, as well as recent current events with Boeing's Alenia-made 787 horizontal stabilizer. Bombardier selected Alenia Aeronautica in March 2009 to design the composite vertical and horizontal stabilizers for the CSeries. Here is the complete transcript of his answer:
Q: Have you been in conversation with Alenia about what specifically has been happening on 787?

A: Yes. Obviously Alenia doesn't reveal to us what's going on with them and Boeing. Our discussions have been more around the aspect that: are you following, our supplier management recipe? Almost in a kind of an auditing sense, we've had a specific meeting with them since those things have become public to say, "Okay, now you understanding, we heard what's happening. We're not going to be rude and try and bug you about that." We're just going to be here and say, "look this is our process, I don't care what Boeing's processes and how they managed you, this is the Bombardier way on how we manage a supplier. And In case you're doubting it and say no we should follow the Boeing way, well no you're going to follow our way, because this is how we started this in 1995 managing off shore design-to-build suppliers."

It includes: You log in and put your schedule in our system. We will have executive program reviews at this frequency. You will supply us burn down plans every month. You will update our weight program at this frequency. And we will be watching you.

Our reputation is staked on you and we're not going to let you mess with us.

The biggest crux of that meeting now that we've heard of the Boeing/Alenia issues is to firmly reestablish our processes, because we know our processes work, ever since the Global [Express] we've been making planes like this with international supply chains so we know it works.

Q: Has Alenia been receptive?

A: The one thing most suppliers have said to us is you know "you're strict, you guys have a different process, but you communicate." And we talk, we meet regularly, we have a process for being able to go back and forth on things.

We can't be draconian and say, "thou shalt do this and thou shalt do that." Because remember why did we pick Alenia? Because they're good at what they do. They make good flight surfaces, in this case the horizontal and vertical stabilizer. We pick specialists in their field.

So when Bombardier picks a supplier, we are picking them for their expertise. That why it's design to build not build-to-print, they are completely responsible.

So, we can't go in there with a big hammer and say, "you're doing it wrong, you're deisgning wrong and all of that" because that defeats the whole purpose. Then it becomes a blame a game, they they could turn around and say, "you told us to do that, so don't blame us".

This way you say, follow our process, meet our goal posts, the rest is up to you. But meet our goal posts and follow the process and that's something Bombardier had to learn, that's taken us years to learn because otherwise you end up in the blame game or you just don't have that relationship.
Photo Credit Bombardier

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