Surely, the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner was inevitable, and probably welcome by Boeing – it gives them the time they have earned over the past 10 years of development to generate solutions.
Like anything that ships, moving from beta systems to customer products increases the pressure and examination of systems by multiple orders of magnitude – beyond any level possible in the lab or test environment.
787 Dreamliner Competitive Advantage
Where are we, and where do we want to go with the competitive lead in fuel efficient air travel in the coming 25 years? Consider the hyped fear in industry under increasing microscope-level government regulators with itchy trigger fingers ready to fire at any sign of risk.
No one wants to be interrogated at those senate and house hearings we see on C-Span. That theater alone will stop (has already stopped?) innovation in many global industries that operate under US regulations.
This paralyzes the economy and can be traced not to engineering or manufacturing issues, but is brought on by panels that lack engineering competency or industry context to innovate sourcing and manufacturing at the 787 Dreamliner scale.
Competitive Advantage At Risk
One misstep and Boeing’s competitive advantage could go away without notice. Boeing’s insightful decision to focus on fuel economy over size and supersonic speed was and still is a well-aligned decision for the industry, airports, customers and the economy.
Misguided over-attention and uncompromising scrutiny is just what a competitor needs to steal all the knowledge and innovation gained at the expense of Boeing’s engineering effort, trial and testing. With not so much as a sound, Embraer, or Airbus (Boeing’s competitors) could take everything learned in the past decade and accelerate it, with fixes, into their product line. Boeing’s competitive advantage would be gone, in a snap.
Boeing would be held hostage by regulators, lawyers, and hearings as they defended the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing could be completely absorbed by this effort, reducing available minds focused on solving issues and potential speed of innovation we saw in the lifecycles of every Boeing aircraft to date.
Denver Airport Revisited
Remember the Denver Airport? The advances in baggage handling systems there were disruptive. And, like the Boeing 787, there were glitches. Like any dramatic and quantum leap like the 787 Dreamliner, the Denver Airport baggage handling system crashed and burned in its early days. Engineers steadfastly worked out the problems.
Press and analysts predicted epic failure. Customers wanted to go back to Stapleton. Every major airport project since Denver has deployed similar systems for improved baggage handling. The industry changed, baggage handling became more efficient, effective, and at reduced cost. And customers benefited.
Allow Engineering Advantage to Prevail, Economically
I’m not suggesting that grounding the 787 Dreamliner was not in order. We value the FAA for their diligence and overseeing our safety. But let’s not predict the end of something that is going to change air travel for the future in a profound way. Like the Denver Airport baggage handling system, let’s get out of Boeing’s way, let them address the issues. The rewards from this quantum leap and disruptive innovation for air travel will benefit all of us.
Observe that the current systems and technologies in Boeing’s 737, 757, and 747 are not the same as the original technology and systems of the first of those models off the line. This is the time of vulnerability for the American Airline industry, and it behooves us to get out of the way. Stay vigilant, but get out of the way.
How do the principles of innovation, launch, iteration and advancement affect competitive advantage in your industry? This concept of competitive advantage is not unique to the Airline industry, for sure.
Please leave a comment, and share your thoughts with other readers.