May 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 1 
Integrated Defense Systems

Take one tablet …

New communications tool aids IDS in Puget Sound


Debbie Ross writing on a Tablet PCWhen Flight Line Inspector Debbie Ross works on an aircraft at the Boeing Integrated Defense Systems Military Flight Center in Seattle, she performs inspections, jots down notes, then runs back and forth between the aircraft and her desk several times a day to input information on her computer.

But that's about to change, thanks to a new, high-tech tool called a Tablet PC, which will enable Ross to do her job, perform multiple inspections on other jobs and remain in one strategic, but mobile, location.

Ross herself participated in a trial of the Tablet PC from last December to March while inspecting modifications on the Airborne Warning and Control System Test System No. 3.

A special projects team set up Ross with the tablet, which looks like a laptop (sans keyboard), has the dimensions of a sheet of paper and weighs only 3.5 pounds. The tablet has all the capabilities of a standard office PC, plus wireless access to the new Puget Sound Enterprise Planning And Control System.

With the tablet, Ross could perform her normal inspector functions and remain stationary at the aircraft. She was able to provide timely updates, send e-mail to colleagues, collect and research information, and avoid time-consuming treks to her desk. "This is the ultimate example of having everything at your fingertips," she said.

Because the trial period proved to be successful on the Test System No. 3 modification, the tablets eventually will be implemented on the AWACS program.

"The tablet is going to enhance our communications capabilities forever on the shop floor, because it enables employees to be near the product while performing the necessary administrative duties simultaneously," said Ed Baker, Boeing IDS manager of AWACS operations. "This is definitely a huge step towards network-centric manufacturing."

The tablets are small--and light enough to carry in a bag or tuck under an arm. They've undergone numerous tests because of their endless possibilities and extensive mobility. During the tests, the tablets have been dropped on the ground repeatedly and still have been able to function perfectly.

"Being on this mobile, paperless system is a true process enhancement because it saves time, which results in cost savings," Ross said.


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