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In response to requests for improved engineering support, Boeing worked with numerous operators to develop and launch the Fleet Team® initiative in late 1999. Now implemented for all Boeing commercial airplane models, the initiative is a pioneer in using online technology to significantly improve communication between Boeing and operators as well as among the operators themselves. The initiative includes several elements, all of which are dependent on operator participation:

  1. Fleet Team® Resolution Process.
  2. Web-based bulletin board.
  3. Model-specific steering committees.
  4. Fleet Team® Digest.

1. FLEET TEAM® RESOLUTION PROCESS

In the past, operators came to Boeing individually with a specific list of problems. Boeing sought to provide an answer to each of these problems through the service-related problem (SRP) process. The solutions often required a redesign of the subject system or part. This engineering approach is effective for solving problems requiring a configuration change. However, because not all operational issues require engineered solutions, the SRP process is not always the most efficient or effective response. In addition, operators told Boeing that many of the resulting solutions were often too costly for them to implement. As Boeing worked to design engineering solutions, the backlog of SRPs and the flow time to resolve them continued to grow, as did operator dissatisfaction with the SRP process.

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In response to this situation, Boeing and operators developed the Fleet Team® Resolution Process (FTRP). The FTRP is an eight-step process that involves operators in solving any operational issues they consider important, not just the problems typically addressed through the SRP process. The FTRP relies heavily on operator participation. This involves all operators sharing expertise among themselves, cooperating with Boeing to identify the right issues, developing the right solutions, and then incorporating those solutions.

The FTRP also helps with balancing the needs of individual operators against the need to deliver the greatest economic benefit to the fleet. As a result, Boeing is moving from trying to resolve hundreds of individual items to working with operators to resolve items common to the fleet.

The FTRP was designed to engage both Boeing and operators in decisions about how to best use their joint resources. It involves no decrease in the Boeing commitment to customer support, and safety-related issues still receive the same focused, critical attention they have always been given.

The primary difference between the FTRP and the SRP process is operator participation. In the past, using the SRP process resulted in too many solutions that were never incorporated into the fleet. However, using the FTRP all operators—regardless of fleet size or geographic location—have the opportunity to identify and discuss the issues important to them. As a result many more solutions should be incorporated into the fleet, substantially improving fleet operation.

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2. WEB-BASED BULLETIN BOARD

The World Wide Web offered Boeing an opportunity to improve customer input as well as the customer communication and participation necessary for the Fleet Team® initiative to succeed. The Fleet Team® bulletin board was designed to facilitate direct operator-to-operator communication and operator-to- Boeing communication about significant items in the fleet. It is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and its format is familiar to Internet users. All operators are strongly encouraged to participate in the bulletin board process. It provides a common meeting ground where operators and Boeing can discuss issues without the time and geographic constraints of live, telephonic, or even virtual real-time conference.

All operators are responsible for posting their significant items to the bulletin board. Operators also participate in deciding which of these items should be addressed and by whom, as well as determining the best resolution to those items. The bulletin board also features a uniform tool that allows the model-specific steering committees (see below) to assess the relative impact of an item based on an individual operatorís experience. By using this tool to gather information from individual operators, the steering committee can better determine which issues have the greatest impact on the fleet.

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To achieve the results they want, operators must commit to a common resolution for a fleetwide problem. They have already done this in many instances by using the bulletin board to share quick and effective best practices or supplier-based solutions. As a result, operators have saved time and money, and Boeing has been able to focus its resources on issues of greater benefit to the fleet.

All operators follow the same simple eight-step process to achieve common resolutions (fig. 1). An authorized operator management-level representative logs on to the bulletin board and submits a candidate item for resolution. At the same time, the representative also uses the relative impact tool (a uniform economic impact tool) to help the steering committee and other operators to assess and prioritize the relative importance of the item. Once posted, other operator management-level representatives are encouraged to comment on the item and use the same relative impact tool to reflect their experience with the item. Operators often have best practices or supplier-based solutions that resolve the issues to their satisfaction. All operators are encouraged to post messages on a given issue, regardless of whether their particular fleet has been affected by it. It is helpful for the steering committee to know which operators have experienced a certain problem and which have not. Boeing can view these postings and add comments about an item or a proposed solution as well as post its own items related to the fleet.

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3. MODEL-SPECIFIC STEERING COMMITTEES

Any operator may increase the level of commitment and participation in the Fleet Team® initiative by serving on model-specific steering committees. These committees determine the selection and final resolution of fleetwide issues. They review candidate items, assess the relative impact to the fleet, consider what resources are available to solve the problem, and assign the item for resolution accordingly. This process ensures that operators ultimately determine which items are resolved, who should provide the service, and what is acceptable in terms of operator cost and schedule. The committees decide which items require engineering solutions and which can be addressed with alternate means such as best practices, joint Boeing-operator teams, or suppliers. All steering committee representatives agree to represent the fleet as a whole, not just their individual operations.

4. FLEET TEAM® DIGEST

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All operators can take further advantage of additional benefits offered through the FTRP by accessing the Fleet Team® Digest. This Web-based document was developed to furnish operators with up-to-date information on the resolution of in-service items. The digest combines the status information formerly available in five separate documents: Configuration Change Support Data, the Fleet Issues Summary Report, the In-Service Activity Report, the In-Service Occurrence Report, and the Technical Focus Report. Items accepted for posting to the bulletin board will include a hot link to the appropriate digest article that details the status on the related issue. The digest eliminates the duplication (and occasional conflicting information) contained in the previous documents. Each new or revised article is available on the Web as soon as it is approved, eliminating the delays associated with publishing and mailing paper or diskette reports and providing the most current information available. This also eliminates the cost operators previously incurred to archive and store the documents. The online search engine greatly improves research capabilities for operators, who can request data by ATA chapter, category, date, or specific keywords in the articles. The digest is easily accessible on the Web 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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SUMMARY
All elements of the Fleet Team® initiative are now available online for all operators of Boeing commercial airplanes. Using the FTRP and Web-based bulletin board, operators have already resolved several in-service problems. By following this new process, Boeing and operators can concentrate their joint efforts on resolving in-service problems more quickly, more effectively, and at lower cost.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE FLEET TEAM® INITIATIVE
Operators who would like more details about the Fleet Team® Initiative—including how to obtain an account on the Web-based bulletin board developed by Boeing or password access to the bulletin board—should contact their Boeing Field Service representative. Operators interested in obtaining copies of the two videos related to the initiative should fax a request to the following number: 206-544-0616.

WALTER HEIN
MANAGER, SERVICE RELATED PROBLEMS
SERVICE ENGINEERING
BOEING COMMERCIAL AIRPLANES GROUP


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