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Feature Story

Ret.  U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Louis “Lou” Johnsick, now a Boeing consultant

Mike Goettings/Boeing photo

One of four AH-64D Apache helicopters headed to an international customer is staged for loading into an Antonov AN-124 cargo aircraft in Mesa, Ariz. Shipping multiple aircraft on this flight helps cut transport costs and environmental impacts.

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Team charts course for environmentally responsible shipping

Boeing’s supply chain has a bit more sparkle these days. Shippers are now showing their environmental credentials as they compete to win company contracts.

The idea came from a company “green team” known to friends and colleagues as the Green Hornets. Rob Bohr, a Supply Chain Logistics manager in Mesa, Ariz., and a member of the team, says the change encourages wide-spread improvement.

"It creates a more environmentally responsible competition."

“Only one company wins the bid, but every bidder works to improve their environmental practices,” Bohr said. “It creates a more environmentally responsible competition.”

Back in 2009, the team took a look at bidding criteria for freight and shipping contractors. There were clear expectations for cost and quality of service, but there was little to reflect Boeing’s commitment to conservation and a quality environment.

The teammates decided to do something about the omission. They realized that they had an opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the company’s five-year environmental targets. The big challenge would come in finding a way to measure a bidder’s environmental practices, allowing fair and accurate comparisons.

After researching this topic and determining the right criteria to use in evaluating bids, the team found one seemingly insurmountable problem: Was there a practical way to ensure that a bidder was, in fact, following the environmental practices described in the bid?

They came up with a solution that was far simpler than they had imagined. Bidders would be asked to prove certification under the SmartWay Transport Partnership, a collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the freight industry. It focuses on reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and improving fuel efficiency. Like all Boeing suppliers, bidders also are asked to prove they have an environmental management system appropriate to their business.

“Contract awards will still be decided on the basis of cost and other business requirements,” Bohr said. “But the added criteria opens the door to environmental credentials becoming a factor in instances where final bids are close.”

The changes are a significant addition to environmentally responsible practices that are already applied to many Boeing shipments.

Among the differences brought about by these changes: Shipments of AH-64D Apache helicopters from Mesa, Ariz., where Boeing builds them, to international customers may multiple aircraft on a flight instead of one per trip. This helps reduce transport costs and environmental effects.

It will take time to calculate the ultimate impact of the change. But it could be substantial, since Boeing is involved in nearly 2 million shipments each year.