May 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 1 
Around Boeing

Leaning into aviation

Boeing shows conference attendees the benefits of incorporating principles


A team uses Lean principles to manufacture eight Lego-like 777sThe Boeing "Leaning into Aviation" professional development seminar at the 15th annual Women in Aviation conference elicited chaos, then calm. And that's exactly what Boeing leaders planned.

After four hours of hands-on learning, attendees went home with a better understanding of the value of incorporating Lean principles into their work.

Jan Martinson, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems Lean Enterprise director, said the 2004 conference, held in Reno, Nev., was an excellent opportunity to teach others how Boeing is using Lean principles to reduce cycle times and costs dramatically, which ultimately benefits customers as well as the company.

"Incorporating Lean principles allows us to deliver value to our customers," Martinson said. "To ensure we're working as efficiently as possible, we need to improve processes continually and get rid of non-value-added tasks, whether they are in the office, factory, or at a supplier."

Boeing men and women have participated in the annual Women in Aviation conference since its inception. They attend workshops and seminars and take advantage of networking and college recruiting opportunities. However, this year was the first time Boeing was asked to share its knowledge and expertise.

Martinson, her Lean team and 50 Boeing volunteers taught the basics of Lean manufacturing and how continuous process improvement can be applied. The seminar attendees were split into groups and told to assemble eight Lego-like Boeing 777s in 15 minutes.

As Martinson and her Boeing colleagues introduced Lean principles during the seminar, the teams worked to incrementally improve their processes, she said. In the first "simulation," teams used traditional manufacturing methods: All parts were in one bag, and work instructions did not have photos. As expected, most teams quickly became frustrated and chaos ensued.

Following a discussion on the benefits of setting up an organized workplace and eliminating non-valued-added work, teams were given presorted kits every two minutes and asked to build again. Most teams did get at least a plane or two built this time.

Martinson said the third module focused on "point-of-use," getting tools and parts to the worker in a way similar to what is done for a surgeon so the doctor doesn't waste time away from the task at hand. At the end of the discussion, teams were allowed to redesign their factories and rebalance their workforces.

"By the third simulation, things began to hum as teams improved flow and took advantage of shadowboxed kits," Martinson said. "We started seeing a lot more smiles, and most teams actually completed all eight 777s in the allotted time."

Martinson said that while the seminar focused on Lean manufacturing, the basic Lean principles can be applied anywhere waste of time and resources exists.

"Daily actions directly impact financial performance," Martinson added. "So it is important that we act with a sense of urgency and do all we can to deploy available Lean tools and techniques."


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