June 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 2 
Commercial Airplanes


Above: The Interiors Responsibility Center's goal is to help develop airplane interiors that give airlines a competitive advantage. The look and feel of the main cabin is a key differentiator for the 7E7 Dreamliner.
Interior remodeling programs like The Learning Channel's "Trading Spaces" might be popular on TV, but they have nothing over Boeing.

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."

Cabin, sweet cabin

IRC people talk about integrating 7E7’s interior

The Boeing Interiors Responsibility Center on March 4 was announced as main cabin partner for the 7E7 program to integrate interiors for the new airplane. Large-scale systems integration is a term at Boeing that is widely used but often poorly understood. Frontiers asked a cross section of IRC employees what their ‘integrator’ role on the 7E7 means to them.

“The 7E7 is an exciting program, and I’m really pleased the IRC was named to integrate interiors. It’s an airplane with a customer-oriented interiors design that I think is exactly what the airline industry needs.”

— Barbara St. James

“I’ve been at Boeing 15 years and can’t believe how far we’ve come with Lean and quality improvements. Our workforce really supports the changes to get better and more efficient, because we believe and trust our leaders are taking us in the right direction.”

— Danita Brooks

“It’s going to be fun to use CATIA Version 5 processes to integrate define engineering for the 7E7. After two years implementing this new tool, we’re ready to apply V5 to a new airplane program, not just for improvements to current internal components.”

— Tom Croissant

“The 7E7 is an awesome opportunity for the IRC and for us as individuals to learn new roles, grow and develop supporting all aspects of the delivery of our products—from the customer through the supply chain. We’re going to get close and partner with Supply Management & Procurement and our external suppliers. Working together gives us a chance to get to the next level—best value on quality and cost. It gives us the ability to close that gap between what we’re doing now and what our customers want. It gives us the chance to compete.”

— Chris McInelly

“Being named as a 7E7 partner to integrate the main cabin brings us some level of control over job security, because this is where decisions are going to be made. We get to work together to make the right decisions for the program and for Boeing.”

— Randy Haviland

— Deborah Banta Dustman

The look and feel of the main cabin interior is an important product differentiator for Boeing's new 7E7 Dreamliner. The IRC is part of the Boeing team working with Teague, a Seattle-based design firm, to craft the 7E7 interior architecture.

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:

  • Determine "make" versus "buy" decisions on components for which they are responsible.
  • Base evaluations on what provides the best value to Boeing.
  • Align design with build.
  • Help implement Lean efficiencies through the supply chain.
  • Work together seamlessly with supplier partners throughout the airplane's lifecycle.

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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