Boeing Frontiers
September 2002 
Volume 01, Issue 05 
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Q and A

HANK QUEEN, leader of BCA Engineering and Product Integrity

Boeing Frontiers met recently with Hank Queen, Commercial Airplanes vice president of Engineering and Product Integrity, who is sponsoring efforts to create a more competitive worldwide engineering team in Commercial Airplanes. Here are excerpts from that discussion:

Hank QueenQ. What are the issues that concern engineers and technical workers at Boeing Commercial Airplanes today?

A: People are wondering if we really are committed to the commercial airplanes business. They see that the company is buying back stock and reducing and selling off assets, and it appears to them that we aren't willing to invest in new products for the future.

Q. Is Boeing willing to invest in new products?

A: Absolutely. We are in the commercial airplanes business for the long term. The Boeing Company's top strategy in support of Vision 2016 is to run healthy core businesses, and Commercial Airplanes is the company's largest core business.

But we can't escape the fact that the market is in tough shape right now and our customers are hurting financially. The world has changed dramatically and is continuing to change, and it's hard for our customers to focus on new products in this environment.

Our challenge is to design a new organizational model for Engineering that supports production demands while retaining the ability to design new products and services — all at less total cost. For the long term, we want to maintain more stable employment than we have historically. I think we can do it if all of us — our employees, unions, suppliers, government agencies, educators, and others in our communities — effectively work together. When our customers become profitable again and are ready to buy new airplanes and require new products such as the Sonic Cruiser, we intend to be there for them. We want to make our customers successful by providing cost-effective, innovative air transportation solutions that are safe and secure.

Q. Many on our Engineering team are saying that they don't know what their role is within Commercial Airplanes, and that makes them feel like they are part of the problem. How are you responding to this concern?

A: We can't go far, and certainly can't be successful in the long term, without our Engineering team helping us.

We are a technology company and they are the people who create our technology. They create the company's wealth. They aren't part of the problem — they are central to the solution and will play a critical role in the future. They must be engaged because we can't go anywhere without our team.

I've asked every manager on our team to ask three simple questions of the people who work in their organizations: What is your current job satisfaction level? What is most important to you about your job? And, what are the biggest issues or greatest barriers to improving your organization? And I'm expecting our managers to listen, talk about what issues can be improved within their groups, and then take positive action as a team to make things better.

Q. People are concerned about the company's plan to become more global — how much outsourcing is planned and will they lose their jobs because of it?

A: There is a general misunderstanding within Engineering about this. We in leadership positions are saying that employees are important and their intellectual capital is valued, and at the same time many people believe that globalization simply is about eliminating jobs to take advantage of cheaper foreign labor. People have a hard time rationalizing it.

We have a requirement to dramatically improve our productivity and quality, as well as to greatly reduce the cost and time to develop new airplanes. Globalization is not the solution to that requirement — it is just one facet of the solution.

Ultimately, our customers will decide our success — and currently about 70 percent of Boeing commercial airplanes are sold to customers outside of the United States. Many of the customers expect Boeing to place work in their countries as a condition of airplane sales. We can't ignore this.

At the same time, we always will need to develop and retain a world-class team of engineers that will lead us to new levels of performance in the future. I think our competitive advantage will come from strategically partnering with engineers worldwide to make them a valuable addition to our enterprise — we need access to markets where they work and live, we need their creative ideas, and we need them to help us lower costs and share in the overall risk in our industry.


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