Thursday, June 07, 2007
The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight
The faithful claim it's just teething problems...bumps along the road...part of the learning experience, typical for a new company.
Wait a minute, we're not talking about a minor glitch here or there, we're talking major miss-fires, major misrepresentations.
On April 4th, the company forecast the delivery of 46 units by the end of May. As in, here's what we are going to do in the next 57 days. Didn't even come close...delivered about a fourth of that number (12).
With over a thousand employees on board, the most advanced aircraft manufacturing facility in the world, a big name auto exec who ramped up the Taurus line to 74 vehicles per hour, you wouldn't think a company could fail so miserably in achieving tomorrow's production goal set just yesterday.
This is a company can't shoot straight, they are more comfortable telling the world what sounds good rather than paint an honest picture.
The story behind the story is even worse. Consider the reality of the situation. Had the 46 deliveries taken place, unit 039 would have delivered mid-May. Serial 039 is where the "B" mods kick in. These mods have yet to certify. So even if manufacturing could have gotten 039 built, QC would not be able to obtain a C of A since there is no way of showing conformity to a configuration not yet certified. So why did the company even begin to suggest they could deliver 46 units?
It would be easy to go back and list various Eclipse targets and remind everyone just how far off they missed their marks, but that was then and tomorrow is another day. So let's look forward.
Avio NG, a terribly complex system matrix that includes eight different suppliers. In his AvWeb interview, Vern claims the system will be ready in August with a production cut-in scheduled for September plus perhaps a few "single digit weeks" (I guess that means nine weeks at the outside).
A comforting statement for the faithful to be sure, but consider the ramifications. It is a repeat of the aero-mod cut-in. Assume they manage to get the production rate up to 2-3 per week by September and the NG system goes into the nine week delay (or even longer based on their track record). Will they continue to produce airplanes with the Avidyne displays? Do they have sufficient Avidyne units in stock to go to the end of the year if needed? Are more units on order?
You can't run an aircraft production line like Eclipse is proposing and not know exactly what you are going to build 6-8-10 months in advance. It is not just a matter of just having all the physical components in place but also the planning documents and engineering coverage. These aspects are not calender driven, they are unit driven.
As an example, make an engineering change to a wire harness and there will be a call out somewhere for effectivity. Production planners can't work with "everything built after September 15" or "plus a few weeks" or "as soon as the NG system is certified." The company will have to pick a serial number for the cut-in like they did with the aero-mods at unit 039. The supply chain has to be programmed to this number, all the engineering and production documention has to reflect the cut-in number as well.
If past performance is any indicator of future performance, Avio NG won't be ready in September unless Vern was referring to 2008. Look for more finger pointing, more delivery delays and a bumpy ride for the bus driver, as more vendors, under-performing managers and maybe even the airport dog gets tossed under the bus.