Here’s Ed from Gin and Tacos in a lovely rant on outsourcing in general, and in particular Boeing aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, and the fact that over 70% of the construction of the plane was outsourced to more than 900 contractors and sub-contractors in dozens of nations.
Oh, and that just this week the entire fleet of 787 aircraft worldwide was grounded due to catastrophic systems failures.
“Boeing is starting to realize that outsourcing and cheap labor are good at making really inexpensive disposable goods. Consumer electronics. Clothes. Shoes. Toys. It’s not so good at making the most complex machines ever devised by mankind, which happen to have a very low tolerance for system failures. If your Reeboks fall apart or your Blu-Ray player craps out, you’re probably going to be irritated. If the electrical subsystems on an aircraft stop working, you’re probably going to be dead. Yes, aircraft like this have redundant systems and not every failure results in a catastrophe. But we’re not talking about a new iPhone here, where the attitude in development can be, “Just release it and we’ll shake out all the bugs in the first year.”
The issues with this airplane should not be overblown, but they should not be interpreted solely as problems with one product from one company. This is an important example of the limited benefits of outsourcing and other “globalization” practices. As I’ve said many times before, it makes things cheaper. That’s what it does. That’s all it does. It does not make things better, safer, or even necessarily faster. It’s merely a way to pay fewer people in high-wage countries as a means of maximizing profits. The idea that Boeing would assemble a bunch of components made by hundreds of different contractors into the most technologically advanced airliner in the world shows how little value is given to quality and safety in comparison to penny-pinching.”