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Boeing’s enormous new 787 aircraft is made almost entirely out of composites. For such a large venture, extensive subcontracting was necessary. Boeing’s Loretta Gunter from 787 communications explains more in an interview.
(Published on April 2006 – JEC Magazine #24)
AN INTERVIEW WITH LORETTA GUNTER, BOEING 787 COMMUNICATION, BOEING
JEC Composites Magazine: Please tell us more about the subcontracting strategy that was used for the production of the 787. In particular, what kind of composites were subcontracted, and why?
Loretta Gunter: Boeing is using the same kind of composites used on the 777, a prepreg carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) that is supplied by Toray. There was nothing unusual about the subcontracting process. We looked around the world at who had the expertise and commitment needed to create a successful product, and placed the work where it could be accomplished the best. The raw material will be provided to the partners we selected to build the structure – Alenia, Spirit, Vought, FHI, KHI and MHI, each of which will be building large composite structures.
J.C.M.: What advantages or disadvantages does subcontracting offer?
L. G.: It increases our ability to be more competitive. Boeing specializes in bringing the best of our industry together to create the greatest flying machines for the travelling public. This is how we have done business for almost 40 years.
J.C.M.: Is subcontracting becoming more or less commonplace at Boeing? What is the trend?
L. G.: We are a global enterprise with partners and suppliers around the world with most of the large components that comprise that global enterprise alreadyin place. Subcontracting is how Boeing has done work since the 747 was created in the 1960s. It has grown over the years.
J.C.M.: Can you describe your subcontracting process for us? How do you choose the company to fulfil a particular need?
L. G.: We choose our suppliers based on their ability to provide technical and business solutions while consistently meeting stringent quality, cost and delivery requirements. We develop and work together with suppliers around the world who are capable of providing world-class quality and best-value parts. We ask for and receive proposals that are evaluated using a robust set of criteria, and work is placed based on what creates the best overall value for the product.