Volume 03, Issue 2
BY DEBORAH BANTA DUSTMAN
Designing and building interiors in no time flat is what Boeing's Interiors Responsibility Center has done every day for years. The vision of the IRC is nothing less than to be "the world's premier choice for aircraft interiors"-interiors that help give airline customers a leg up on their competitors.
"One of our strengths is our ability to translate concepts into a 'look' that offers a competitive advantage in the marketplace," said Elizabeth Lund, IRC director. "We are unique because we have the full range of capability to provide parts and services from airplane conception through aftermarket support and, because we're inside Boeing, we can respond to requirements for short lead time and airplane customization within a lean, efficient delivery system."
The IRC's responsibility on the 7E7 program includes linings and furnishings products such as interior sidewalls, ceilings, stow bins, crew rests and closets, as well as additional interior features such as lighting, passenger service units and attendant stations. But being a Boeing insider doesn't mean the business unit will build everything inside. Pulling it all together to provide best value is their real challenge.
Its role of "integrator" means that, along with helping translate concepts into specific designs and assemblies, the IRC will select and manage both its internal and external supply base. Managing the work of external suppliers is new for Boeing components manufacturers, and it's a role that enables the IRC and some other Fabrication Division business units to support Boeing's strategy of large-scale systems integration.
The integrator role calls upon these internal Boeing business units to:
Going forward, one of the IRC's top strategic priorities is to engage its workforce to learn more about how to run a healthy core business. But the IRC is already a motivated bunch, and just talking with employees for a few minutes makes it easy to see they already know what it takes.
From the factory floor to the top floor, IRC employees in Boeing's 40-56 building in Everett, Wash., constantly look to find ways to under-run market-driven target cost goals.
"It's a breath of fresh air when you're given both visibility and ability to make decisions to help become more competent running a healthy core business," said Howard Hampton, who helps manufacture the IRC's balance package for partitions. "Until recently, we didn't have visibility to cost. Now our leaders say: 'Here are the costs; here is your customer feedback; tell us how you can deliver a better product at lower total cost.' To everyone at the IRC, finding ways to save $12,000 on a part is a big deal."
Getting cost out is nearly a sport. With engineering and production employees working side-by-side, teams pit one idea against another in "innovation wars," where the play is part and process simplification, and victory is total cost reduction.
The innovation wars are all in good fun, but with an eye on the prize: to help their customers compete. Transforming from the inside out looks downright fun when IRC employees do it, because you can tell they're throwing their hearts and souls into the effort. Which just goes to show: It's what's inside that counts.
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