Riding the Wave: Boeing
Over the last 100 years, Boeing has designed, manufactured, and sold: airplanes, rotorcraft, spacecrafts, satellites, and rockets. Boeing is a prestigious company, and it’s my goal to keep it that way though this thought experiment.
Given our current global situation, businesses have been forced to pivot and are unable to operate at full speed. The market is volatile and Boeing’s competition is also struggling. This presents Boeing with an opportunity to stop and reset. It’s a Brady and Rodgers situation. Wait and be patient, but when the opportunity presents itself, rise to the occasion and leave your legacy.
In my thought experiment, I will be discussing Boeing’s current situation and present a few recommendations. Boeing needs to take immediate action in order to come out of this pandemic stronger and thrive. Not survive. Here is what I am proposing
1. Fixing Planes
2. Start Swimming
3. Improve our Trains and Railways
4. Modernize Transportation with the Fly-o-Rail
5. Partner with Uber to Fly Everywhere
6. Shift into Consumer Drones
7. Get Serious about Space
Boeing needs to reposition itself as a transportation company. And the biggest one at that. This economic decline has laid the foundation for a lot of cheap acquisitions to take place that can diversify your offerings, while consolidating the core focus. Boeing can take on justifiable debt and plan to spin off nonessential businesses, like the telecommunications division, once the pandemic dies down. Instead of trying to survive, Boeing will thrive.
Boeing hasn’t been able to avoid the media slandering the brand’s name after the 737 MAX disaster. Following the two fatal crashes caused by flight computer malfunctions in late 2018 and early 2019, the flagship 737 MAX was grounded worldwide. The 737 MAX accrued roughly 5,000 orders from more than 100 customers worldwide. Instead of the massive projected success, the 737 MAX is costing Boeing over $18.5B dollars.
The flight computer malfunctions have yet to be solved, causing major manufacturing and shipping delays. To make things worse, investigations revealed a scandal with the FAA and top Boeing execs about cover ups and lack of compliance. After a record setting 2018 in terms of deliveries and orders, Boeing’s stock has plummeted to its lowest mark since 2013.
And then the Coronavirus hits. On top of already being in the dog pound, Covid-19 has halted the majority of the world from their typical day to day activities. Boeing included. An already delayed time frame is now pushed even further back as folks work from home for the foreseeable future.
First and foremost, let’s address the planes. The plane malfunctions should have been fixed months ago. Boeing should bring in consultants and experts to expedite this process. Maybe an outside look could help solve the problem, or scrap it and start over. The pilot training, enablement, and simulators must also be reworked and properly handled.
Boeing and the FAA must mend their relationship and get on the same page. To start that initiative, Boeing needs to incorporate the FAA heavily on the 737 fixes. These planes need to be delivered and sold as soon as the FAA gives them the go ahead. It’s time for Boeing’s airplane division to get their ducks in a row and move past the 737 fiasco.
Cruise lines have made the wrong kind of headlines this year. The cruise ship Diamond Princess was stationed off the shore of Japan with hundreds of infected people aboard for weeks in February. Then in early March, nearly 2,000 passengers had to be quarantined on U.S. military bases after infected passengers were found on the Grand Princess. Cruise lines have experienced a large decrease in their stock price and some are on the verge of going bankrupt. This opens up the first new opportunity for Boeing.
I’d suggest Boeing to buy Royal Caribbean out right and start sailing the sea. Boeing has yet to enter the water and Royal Caribbean’s current price makes it quite intriguing. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund bought an 8.2% stake in Carnival. How’s that for validation?
The cruise industry may never be the same, at least for a while. This gives Boeing an opportunity to innovate the stagnant cruise industry. Royal Caribbean has the intellectual property and know-how to help Boeing create smaller ships that offer more niche adventures. Folks will be wary of getting on large cruise ships after the recent headlines. Royal Caribbean’s existing fleet and the new, smaller ships are bound to attract all spectrums of the market.
Freeing up cash may be difficult during a pandemic. Budgets have already been tight since the 737 MAX fiasco. Taking on debt and using whatever cash on hand for this opportunity makes sense for a few reasons. Royal Caribbean is already established, as is the cruise industry. The time to market is none for the existing cruise lines RC already has. Building smaller boats and creating niche adventures will take a handful of years, but Boeing could always retrofit existing boats while building a brand new model.
The combination of Boeing and Royal Caribbean merges the blend of software and hardware to create a new offering of smaller cruise ships to the market. I see this as a fruitful acquisition to expand into a new market when the barriers to entry are low. And who’s to say further down the road Boeing can’t compete for government vessel contractors? Ahoy captain Boeing.
Improve our Trains and Railways
The majority of our current public transportation options were invented when population levels were significantly lower and the technology not as advanced as it is today. Thus, we have overcrowded subways and busses, trains that hardly go anywhere, and a whole lot of traffic. Compared to other countries like Barcelona and London, our public transportation system falls drastically behind. Ask anyone in San Francisco, Chicago, or LA and they will complain for hours about the poor public transportation options and traffic.
We haven’t made a dent in our railroad infrastructure since the completion of the transcontinental railroad. How can we suddenly abandon our once prosperous ground level transportation system? Collen Bohanhian and Thomas Durant fought hard for our railroads to be built in the 1800’s.
The two biggest barriers we face are the lack of high-speed rails and the necessary infrastructure connecting cities across the United States. American rail lines were designed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. City populations have scaled up and down since then, yet our transportation infrastructure hasn’t scaled equally. We need to have rails connecting major cities, like Chicago, to smaller and medium sized cities like Springfield.
If I was in France, I could travel from Paris to the small town of Guéthary, which holds 1,303 people, in just over 5 hours across 487 miles. America is considerably larger, but to go from New York to Portland, Maine, the city of 66,882 people, it would take you north of 7 and a half hours across 314 miles. Do the math. 173 miles shorter but 2 and a half hours longer.
This is where Boeing steps in. Boeing can use their manufacturing expertise to build high-speed trains and rails. However, one company can’t do this alone. A coalition between Steel Dynamics, Union Pacific, Carbon, and Boeing will provide the necessary infrastructure to further connect American cities. Boeing will manufacture the physical trains with Union Pacific, while Steel Dynamics and Carbon lie down an innovative high speed track. Carbon’s 3D printing technology will help speed up the process of laying down track and create a high-speed rail infrastructure out of graphene.
A Carbon-Boeing partnership will be a key piece to innovate the transportation industry. I’d recommend making the partnership a permanent, exclusive deal for the transportation industry. Carbon’s technology is at the forefront of manufacturing. Boeing’s manufacturing process must adapt in order to ease into new segments and speed up the delivery of products. Carbon can do just that.
Modernize Transportation with the Fly-o-Rail
Ground transportation can only get us so far before we have to turn elsewhere. Let’s look up.
Monorails may be old news, but they are going to make a comeback. Except this time, they will look a lot more futuristic. Over the last several years, many Asian and Latin American countries have invested in monorails. As population levels continue to rise, we must adapt our current transportation methods.
Let me introduce you to the future of transportation. The Fly-o-Rail. The popular amusement park ride will carry large pods that carry passengers from the suburbs to city centers.
You walk, bike, or scoot your way over to the fly-o-rail and get on your designated pod. Because we can’t build monorail-like infrastructure inside cities like New York, these pods will detach from the rail as we approach the outskirts of the city. From there, the pods will fly into the heart of the concrete jungles we call cities. Pods will land at local hotspots like Wall Street, The Empire State Building, and even offices that can afford their own stop.
The Fly-o-Rail needs the correct infrastructure to run. The partnership with Carbon will be extremely vital to build the “highways” and pods. However, Aerobus has been building monorails since the 70’s. Purchasing them for the infrastructure and hardware will make this project’s time to value much faster.
The existing Boeing team will have no problem making the necessary design and software upgrades to the current Aerobus pods. Afterall, this is the team that created spacecrafts that have been to the International Space Station. Carbon and the original Aerobus folks will build the fly-o-rail infrastructure, while Boeing and Carbon retrofits the pods into a new version. Boeing engineers will build out the system of detaching and flying to certain locations. This part alone is the feature that will make the Fly-o-Rail practicable in densely populated cities like Mumbai, NYC, Tokyo, and more. Although this project will require many permits and regulations from states and cities, it paves the way for Boeing to rebrand the company into a transportation goliath.
Partner with Uber to Fly Everywhere
Uber is a software company. Boeing is primarily a hardware company. Together, the two will create the future of transportation. Uber sees helicopter rides as the next logical step to achieving its goal of transforming the transportation industry. Eventually, Uber wants to deploy a network of all-electric flying taxis. Now we bring in Boeing.
Uber’s current helicopters are owned and operated by a company called HeliFlite. HeliFlite is just an ordinary on-demand charter. Boeing will easily replace them with an all-electric, autonomous helicopter fleet of Boeing NeXt’s. Boeing has been building military aircrafts since the 80’s. Venturing into the commercial space is a logical next step. Partnering with Uber is the million dollar idea.
An Uber and Boeing partnership will be just the beginning. Lyft and Blade will also rely on Boeing’s rotorcrafts. These software companies need a hardware company to go to market. Uber builds the platform and integrates it onto their core app. Boeing customizes their NeXt’s to the companies liking. Boeing NeXt will become the standard rotorcraft for all companies wishing to get in on the flying taxi business.
Shift into Consumer Drones
Alphabet’s Wing has been making significant headway in the drone transportation business. Wing is a drone-based freight delivery service who has partnered with Walgreens and other local establishments to deliver mail and goods to rural towns. To my delight, Boeing has prior experience building military grade drones like UAVs. This is a large advantage in terms of production and manufacturing experience. Boeing can easily retrofit their drones for commercial use to carry packages and parcels across several miles. Once again, instead of reinventing the wheel, modify an existing product and get to market quicker.
Building drones for delivery companies like FedEx or USPS to deliver packages to rural communities is the first part. But partnering with other ecommerce giants like Etsy, eBay, and Walmart can be even more lucrative.
Boeing will become both an infrastructure and software solution to the last mile delivery problem. The tricky part is working with the FAA to get regulation clearance and acceptable flight routes. Air space is only going to get more and more crowded as the years go on. An advanced aerial mapping for the various tiers of air space will become necessary. Boeing can build out this aerial route guidance system to accelerate the FAA’s approval and get to market before competitors. This guidance system will not only become necessary for the FAA, but a key piece of work for the future of all aerial transportation.
Get Serious about Space
Boeing has been NASA’s closest friend since the late 60’s. More recently, Boeing built the CST-100 Starliner to transport crew to the International Space Station. From satellites to spacecrafts, Boeing has built it all.
In recent times, Boeing has been getting it handed to to them from Space-X and Blue Origin. This is where Virgin Galactic comes into play. Purchasing Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company, will accelerate both companies’ commercial and governments endeavours. Combining IP and getting on the same page might take some time, but the joint progress will accelerate Boeing past the other members of the modern space race.
Boeing needs to improve it’s rocket technology while also expanding into the commercial space industry in order to survive. The combination of cutting edge rockets, and years of sending spacecraft and satellites into space positions Boeing swimmingly against, SpaceX and Blue Origin. Boeing, by acquiring VG, will eventually be able to send astronauts to Mars and the everyday citizen on suborbital space flights.
A lot of what I’m saying is a toss up. But if you really think about it, how crazy would it be? If Boeing doesn’t innovate, they will be irrelevant. The pressure they face from the media, internal stakeholders, and the public is at an all time high. Innovate or die. It’s the way business ought to be.
With these futures initiatives laid out, Boeing is rebranding into a modern day transportation company. Whether it’s up in space, out at sea, on the ground, or in the air, Boeing will get you there.
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