Situation in Japan Could Cause Parts Shortage for Boeing’s 787

The Wall Street Journal reports that a week after a devastating 9.0 earthquake which struck off the coast of Japan unleashing a massive tsunami, Boeing is starting to have a clearer picture of how it will impact 787 suppliers in Japan.

787 Dreamliner (photo provided by Boeing)

The new 787 relies on an extensive worldwide network of manufacturers who build the parts and then fly them to Boeing’s main production facility in Everett, Washington. Of those parts, about 1/3 of them come from Japan, leaving some analysts worried that the 787 will experience production delays over the coming months due to delays caused by the earthquake’s damage to the country’s infrastructure.

While it appears for now that most of Boeing’s suppliers were largely unaffected by the earthquake, Boeing says there are a few areas of concern in its Japan supply chain.

A Boeing spokesman said that the company had “identified points of risk within the supply chain and [is] developing mitigation plans.” He said that the company will be able to largely manage those risks with “minimal” supply chain disruption as long as the power supply and transportation infrastructure doesn’t worsen in the coming days or weeks.

The spokesman, Doug Alder, declined to detail Boeing’s contingency plans or specific risks the company has identified.

Boeing also warned of a potential for future parts shortages for new airplanes, including the Dreamliner. Those shortages could come from a “small number” of sub-suppliers in Japan or problems related to damage with that nation’s transportation infrastructure.

The 787 is more than three years behind schedule but is nearing the end of its flight testing certification process and is expected to be delivered to launch customer All Nippon Airways sometime in the third quarter. The situation in Japan should not impact the initial batch of planes since they are already built but with aggressive production plans after the launch, delays in the supply chain could limit Boeing’s ability to increase production.

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