Boeing has been building commercial airliners since 1927 with the first Boeing commercial jet airliner, the 7O7, introduced in l955. As discussed in the article on page 172 of the text. This success is even more remarkable when one realizes that the Boeing “Design/ Build” process had not changed very much during the past three decades. The system was antiquated, cumbersome, and inefficient creating production delays, increased costs, and spawning a huge bureaucracy simply to handle the paperwork. Boeing must clearly be motivated to bring this World War II era process into the 21st Century.
Airbus Industries’ increasingly larger share of the commercial airliner market was a major force instigating these changes. Airbus had the advantages of government subsidies to help defray the costs of implementing best design practices, as well as latecomer advantages. It learned from Boeing’s, as well as Lockheed’s and McDonnell Douglas’, mistakes and it did not have 40 years of bureaucratic momentum to overcome. Other motivating factors include the need for Boeing to increase the income from the commercial aircraft division to offset the loss of revenue due to cutbacks in government defense and aerospace contracts.
In this paper I will attempt to highlight those topics I think should be covered, suggestions, and background for those reasons. In this I will hope to show why the Boeing Company was in need of the much-needed overhaul of the design/build process at Boeing, the changes themselves as well as the methodology used in accomplishing those changes.
The last decade has seen the commercial aircraft industry dominated by two manufacturers: the Boeing Commercial Aircraft Company and Airbus Industries, with McDonnell Douglas, a distant third. Airbus Industries is a relative newcomer, but it has very quickly provided much competition to Boeing, surpassing McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed. Airbus Industries is a consortium backed by the British, French, German and Spanish governments. The great, and many say unfair, advantage that Airbus has over the competition is government subsidies allowing Airbus to operate in the red. Thus, Airbus can afford to develop new technologies without having to worry about passing on the costs to the customers and can price their aircraft very competitively to lure away airlines from Boeing.
The effects of the changing airline industry resulting from deregulation in 1978 are still being felt in the commercial aircraft industry. The competition among airlines for passengers has resulted in a greater emphasis on cost cutting leading to mergers and bankruptcies. In addition, airlines modified their routing systems since they were not limited to certain routes, as was the case before deregulation, changing their buying patterns for aircraft accordingly. Airlines were now less concerned with having a technologically superior airplane and more concerned about the cost and efficiency of that airplane.
The first question that comes to mind is “why would the undisputed leader in the commercial airliner industry make such a risky, change?”. In other words, doesn’t the old motto “If it ain’t broke, Don’t fix it” apply in this case? Well according to many observers both inside and outside of Boeing, the system was ‘broke’. To give an example of the inefficiency of the process that coordinates engineering and manufacturing, it used to take 800 different computer systems to manage it. This process has been around since Boeing was building the B-17 Bomber in World War II. The process of tracking parts in an airplane was called “effectinitly” and was done manually! A drafter required two years of training to fully understand the system, and still one-third of the paper work contained errors. This “effectivity” just doesn’t make sense, and this process adds absolutely no value to their product and results in tremendous costs.
Regardless of all the evidence pointing to flaws in the system, changing a successful company is not easy, especially if we consider the cost and the additional time involved. For the 777, the additional time is estimated to be six months over the normal 48 months to develop a new airplane. Getting a tremendously large bureaucratic system to move forward is a daunting task, especially while continuing to produce airplanes.
The changes to the Boeing Commercial Aircraft Company must encompass all fields. From the philosophy of the company to the technical details, every aspect of the design/build process will need to be modified.
All content is integrated and organized to fit each user’s needs and delivery preferences.
Lack of collection point for distributed server statistics
Split between internal metrics and vendor hosted metrics
Lack of direct user identification
Difficulty of collecting true costs and true benefits
Lack of accounting tools to measure intangibles
Collecting metrics from high volume servers as indicators of growth
Using local server statistics to monitor content usage
Using traditional survey methods to answer questions about usefulness, abuse, and value
Collecting data on increased revenue, decreased costs, and better use of information for specific sites
Participating in bench marking surveys with peer institutions
All content being able to be integrated and organized to fit each user’s needs and delivery preferences.
Rapid proliferation of tools for content delivery
Media hype based on marketing claims
Lack of software compatibility
Instability of tools developed on fast schedules
Lack of common standards for content description
Poor integration of delivery tools and content
Providing enterprise-wide delivery systems for search and filtering
Site licensing search products for local server use
Providing product support for licensed products
Encouraging internal information owners to develop processes to manage their information, and making visible those sites that succeed
Encouraging vendors to separate content from delivery tools, and to work towards common content formats
Ensure all content is integrated and organized to fit each user’s needs and delivery preferences.
Wide accessibility brings enterprise-wide deficiencies into visibility
Platform incompatibilities are escalating, driving importance of common standards
Those standards are still in evolution, and often pushed for competitive advantage
Problems of scale become major roadblocks for needed infrastructure services (directory, authentication)
Pull between distributed and centralized services is a constant struggle
All content is integrated and organized to accommodate each user’s needs and delivery preferences.
Most difficult piece of the puzzle to solve, and least interesting to technologists
Rich content is essential for better management
Agreement on how to enrich that content is not easy
Very few standards for content description are available or stable
Commercial tools do not lend themselves to software- independent content description
90% of the battle is education
Adopting a subset of Dublin Core meta-data as the company-wide tagging standard
Initiating groups to examine impact of XML and RDF on Boeing’s existing and planned content sets
Promoting and presenting pilot projects using rich content through cross-company forums
Influencing internal standards boards to address issues of content management vs. infrastructure management
Participating in research studies and other activities related to knowledge management
All content is integrated and organized to fit each user’s needs and delivery preferences.
Users all have different needs
Identifying those needs is difficult
Meeting those needs is harder still
User expectations are often unrealistic
Content is often tied to delivery systems
Content is protected by passwords
Tracking usage statistics to find high impact pages
Using surveys to collect feedback
Performing usability studies on high profile web sites
Studying specific user groups’ information seeking behavior
Looking at cultural barriers to effective use of information
Lobbying vendors to adopt common content and retrieval standards
Purchasing content separately from delivery systems wherever possible
All employees must be part of a team and have the pride that accompanies it.
Working as teams can at times be extremely difficult
Knowing your employees and your supervisors can cause animosity among sections
Trust with in the company must be earned
Boeing is touting the 777 as a new processes not just a new product, a philosophy that is espoused by everyone from the top down.
Cards worn on name tags were printed listing the mission, goals, objectives
The Boeing company mission statement is: “To be the number one aerospace company in the world and among the premier industrial concerns in terms of quality, profitability and growth.” On the backside of the 777 division cards was this mission statement: “Working together to produce the preferred new airplane family.”
Change need to not only tangible but in the mind of every worker.
Working together solving problems
Realizing the benefits of having every one involved
The “I can do it alone ” was changed to “We can do it together ”
Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) Simulation and Integration:
Computer Aided Drafting should be used and linked to every Engineer so as to promote ideas and decrease production time.
Linking this type and style of software can be expensive
The development of the 777 was the single largest trial of CAD and the initial production time results were impressive. The port wing tip of the first 777 was out of position by 1/1,000 of an inch when attached to the fuselage and the starboard wing was exactly located to within the accuracy of the measuring gauges where by saving countless man-hours and money.
Institute teams and publish goals that are obtainable and common sense.
Established Companies are reluctant to change their ways
Boeing management was a hand written list of goals including statements such as:
a) Everything works, b) No surprises, and c) Working together.
This led directly to the concept of design/build teams, which were involved, on every aspect of the design effort. At one point there were 238 such teams.
Changes in business and marketing practices are necessary
Boeing will need to be more responsive to the customer.
This can be a large hurdle to cross, as the Leader in the aircraft industry is some times difficult to change when you are the leader of the pack.
One of Boeing’s stated goals and marketing strategy cornerstones is the idea of service readiness from day one.
Perhaps the strongest selling point of Boeing’s marketing strategy is the idea of customer involvement and giving the customer configuration flexibility. Teams from four customers, United Airlines, British Airways, All Nippon and Japan Airlines, were heavily involved from the beginning of the 777 program. Boeing gives airlines great flexibility in configuring the cabin by making the galleys and lavatories completely modular.
In today’s economy they must be and remain competitive they must reduce costs.
This may and some times causes layoffs for several employees
It is unpopular to take the needed steps to remain competitive in a world economy
Boeing has set targets for reducing costs by 25%, defects by 50%
Cut order-to-delivery time by half to six months.
A large step toward achieving the cost reduction goal is going to just-in-time management of the nearly $8 billion inventory Boeing keeps on hand just in-case.
Did all these changes substantially change the design/build process for commercial jet aircraft at Boeing? Yes! Was it a change for the better? Yes! Were the changes enough to maintain the market share that Boeing currently enjoys? The answer to the last question is difficult to answer now since the changes are not complete and their effects will not be known until well into the 21 st century.
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