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told a Cowen & Company Aerospace/Defence and Industrials
Conference in New York : “ We’ve a gated [development] process
that goes through technology into the business case — into pricing,
engine technology and capabilities and efficiency, and so on. We’ve
enhanced those gates, put more criteria in based on lessons learned
to try to de-risk the programme.”
He says that Boeing is working to “mature our thoughts and our
confidence in those gates, and that’s going to be the pacing item”
for a 2019 decision. The NMA is widely expected to receive its com-
mercial launch — as the Boeing 797 — at the Paris Air Show in June,
ahead of a formal industrial go-ahead next year.
Boeing is “staying very engaged [with customers], understanding
their needs, pricing dynamics, quantities — the near-term needs
as well in entry-into-service”, says Smith, who also speaks of “a
very-disciplined gated process, to ensure the business case is
Smith underlines the conservative approach: “ There’s
no big leaps: leveraging US$60 billion investment over
the last 10 years, de-risking the programme, getting the
non-recurring effort to a manageable state, lessons
learned from all the programmes that we’ve had”.
According to Smith, Boeing has a hand-picked team
managing NMA. “ We’re going through the right gates
with the right people. We brought [in] the best of Boe-
ing to really make sure we’re working all elements,
Muilenburg says that Boeing is “protecting a 2025 entry-in-
to-service date, doing risk-reduction work to protect the schedule”.
The NMA “would come on the back side of 777X [and] leverage
everything we’ve been learning from the 737 MAX and the 777X”.
Such timing would ensure an even spread of R&D budget. Muilen-
burg has spoken of the NMA “layering-in nicely after 777X ”, alongside
the idea that R&D as a proportion of sales could remain relatively
flat — something achieved with 777X and the 737 MAX.
Muilenburg says the company expects that R&D for a launched
NMA would “be about 3.7-3.8 percent of sales. R&D will grow over
time as revenue grows, but as a percent[age] of revenue we expect
it to be roughly constant”.
And if Boeing goes ahead with the NMA next year, the R&D
profile “fits very nicely with our overall financial plan”, according to
Muilenburg. Smith says that timing is “really more back-loaded —
front loaded on the back end of the 777X development”.
The Boeing financial executive says that would demonstrate “a
lesson learned” about concurrent development of major aircraft
programmes (something Boeing did with the 757 single-aisle and
767 twin-aisle designs in the late 1970s, the aircraft flying first in,
respectively, 1982 and 1981). “ We’re not going to do that and we’ve
made that clear,” says Smith.
While both Boeing executives emphasise that the NMA is not
planned to sport any “technology-push”, the US manufacturer does
plan to innovate in its approach to automation and production.
What might NMA automation look like? “We’re at the beginning of
reaping the benefits of automation,” says Muilenburg. “ We’ve largely
applied it to how we’ve designed and built airplanes in the past.”
He cites 787 aft-body build automation and 777 fuselage upright
build — “where we have about 50,000 fasteners that are placed ro-
botically”. With similar technology employed on 737 MAX wing-panel
assembly, Muilenburg says that is “largely automation applied to
previous manufacturing” methods.
“ The next wave of automation will be designing digitally to ac-
commodate automation,” according to the Boeing chairman. “ When
you do that, the benefits of automation grow significantly. If you go
to a fully digital enterprise, the benefits could be more significant.”
Muilenburg expects such developments to help the company ’s
financial performance. “It’s also an enhancement to quality and to
worker safety: a lot of automated activities go into some of the tough,
For Smith, the NMA exercise provides a chance to consider
broader synergies, such as customer support through the recently
established Boeing Global Services. “It’s a unique opportunity to look
through the life-cycle lens at the beginning, [at] the overall design
and infrastructure of the programme and meet our objectives to
grow services [and] deliver better value to customers.
“It’s the first time that we’ve done this, looking at the basic char-
acteristics of the airplane and what it brings to the marketplace and
the customer, but also that whole life-cycle lens — how you think
about your design and manufacturing and serviceability, intellectual
property, the production system from a services life-cycle perspec-
tive at the beginning. We’re taking time, to fully understand it and
we’re engaged with about 60 different customers. We’re spending
the time needed to ensure this is robust in all levels.”
Boeing also is keen for its commercial-aircraft business to learn
from other parts of the company, taking capabilities and practices that
have been proved on, military or space programmes. “How do you
take those?” asks Smith, rhetorically. “Get them over into NMA and
leverage that [Boeing] capability experience and apply that to NMA.
“ There’s a lot of criteria and we’re being very disciplined, and
we’re going to go [with NMA] when we’re ready. And we’re ready,”
concludes the executive.
◀ Boeing officials said the NMA would come on the back side of the
777X (pictured) and leverage everything learned from the 737 MAX
and the 777X.
It’s the first time that we’ve done this, looking at
the basic characteristics of the airplane and what
it brings to the marketplace and the customer, but
also that whole life-cycle lens...
GREGORY SMITH, BOEING
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