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The problems with this plane, which forced FAA to ground all of them today in US, is its new type of lithium-ion battery made in Japan, and never used in a plane before. This type of powerful battery is overheating easily, catches fire etc. resulting in a number of emergency landings over a short period of time.
Now I have a few questions:
What are your thoughts?
It wasn't just the batteries that caused the airplane to be grounded.
I suspect that analytics use (or lack of use) is not the issue. I would guess it is the problem of building a plane with a host of subcontractors and trying to assemble their parts. i'm sure Boeing is reviewing the subcontractors who were responsible for the failing parts to determine how to solve the problem and get the airplane back in the air.
Agree w/ Alex. Anything of this sort can be spinned as an analytics problem, but I would point more towards policies and procedures used by the subcontractor for the battery part as the most likely point of failure. Those might be based on some analytics, but saying this an "analytics problem" is not worth it.
I would only be speculating here, but before anyone jumps to folks being dishonest or greedy, let us think back to the Space Shuttle and O-rings. The reliability of the O-ring had not been tested at the unusually cold temperatures on the day of the launch of Challenger, and so the likelihood of failure under that condition was grossly underestimated.
I suspect there is something similar going on here. On their own, the batteries don't overheat much, but under the conditions in which they are being used in this airplane the reliability stats don't mean anything because the conditions are fundamentally different. When this happens, you can end up with finger pointing (supplier blames airplane manufacturer for using the battery outside of its specified usage, or manufacturer blames supplier for not robustly testing their product).
Analytics may not be the root cause of the problem, but perhaps analytics could have prevented a problem from happening.
Or maybe non-existent.
I agree with you Titus and Keith. Classic Ops research problem. As an operations research analyst for the last 13 years my experience has taught me to use a variety of techniques to answer questions/solve problems. And then I think it is a matter of the System of Systems approach and appropriate testing of the batteries in extreme conditions (the environment in which the airplane operates). Need to look at the reliability engineering/analysis of the batteries (MTTF, MTBF, etc) and under which conditions?
In the end certainly better and more appropriate analyses COULD have prevented this...
The cost of testing 5,000 batteries in (simulated) flight conditions (low atmospheric pressure etc.) for extended time periods as well as testing all other critical / dangerous components (fuel tank, tires, etc.) and how they interact, might be very high. But it should be measured against the cost of deadly disasters, losing out to competitor Airbus, or the cost of possible bankruptcy should Boeing be unable to sell the 5,000 Dreamliners it expects to sell in the next 10 years (should trust in the Dreamliner evaporates).
Certainly - several critical factors to look at. However, as you stated these batteries had never been used before. Maybe just component testing and not necessarily interoperability testing could have made the difference. I like your idea of measuring it against the alternatives. Could be a good problem set involving expected value and decision making.
It wasn't the battery.
The FAA stated that the battery wasn't the problem. It was well within it's temperature range per the FAA.