October 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 6 
Integrated Defense Systems

MACON a big splash

Site in Georgia boosts quality and supports its community


MACON a big splashLike a small fish in a big pond, Boeing's Macon, Ga., facility might easily be overlooked. But the 600 Boeing employees who live in and around Macon-known as "The Cherry Blossom Capital of the World," with more than 275,000 Yoshino cherry trees-are making some very big waves.

Last month, IndustryWeek magazine named the site one of the 10 best manufacturing plants in all of North America. The trade journal's annual Best Plants competition recognizes facilities that are on the leading edge of the effort to increase competitiveness, enhance customer satisfaction, and create stimulating and rewarding work environments. The honor bodes well for Macon's readiness to impress Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award examiners who are visiting the site this month as part of the Airlift and Tanker Programs application.

"The Macon team is on a tremendous journey," said Obie Jones, Macon site leader for Boeing. "It's truly an honor to be a part of one of Boeing's premier teams."

Under the aegis of Integrated Defense Systems and its Air Force Systems business unit, Macon employees primarily build structural subassemblies for the C-17 advanced airlifter. This is done within the site's two main buildings: a 200,000- square-foot high bay and a 104,000-square-foot low bay. The team also supports the AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook rotorcraft programs. The site began as a McDonnell Douglas operation in 1988, with a product line of 60 percent commercial airplanes (MD-80) and 40 percent military (C-17). Today the site performs military work exclusively.

Coupled with Macon's workplace prowess is a strong foundation in social responsibility. When area food bank inventories fell to all-time lows in the winter of 2002, word reached the plant that help was needed. Macon employees took on the challenge to beat the record of the most food ever donated by a single organization: 5,000 pounds. As part of the effort, employees built two scale mock-ups of C-17 cargo bays to collect the food in the lobbies of its two buildings.

MACON a big splash"The team wanted to replicate the C-17's humanitarian food drops," recalled Jones, referring to the millions of life-sustaining rations airdropped by U.S. Air Force crews in recent years. "The response was simply amazing." Employees more than doubled the record they were trying to beat, as the mockups overflowed with 11,000 pounds of food.

According to Jones, there are virtually no Boeing sites looking to offload the kind of work Macon specializes in. "I have to present a very compelling business case in order to convince other business units to take advantage of our efficiencies and excellent quality," he said.

With the team's continuous record levels of excellent performance and plant space availability resulting from Lean initiatives, Jones recently placed bids for work outside the company as well.

More kudos for Macon

One of Macon's high-performing teams, the Slats 3 and 4 team, was among 26 international finalists last year competing for the International Team Excellence award. The annual event is sponsored by the Association for Quality and Participation to honor teams that best demonstrate quality improvement through group participation. The team, formed in response to the customer having identified concerns about no-fit conditions and foreign object debris, focused on process improvements that resulted in 100 percent customer satisfaction in cost, schedule and delivery. Also last year, the facility was honored with the Oglethorpe Award, Georgia's highest recognition for performance excellence.

"That was a very valuable experience," he said. "We're going to continue to help drive cost out of the C-17 program through diversification into new rotorcraft and fixed-wing work."

However, all of this goodness is a double-edged sword, said Jones. "If we don't keep making performance gains, we risk losing out to competitors. And as a leader, it's my challenge to keep bringing in new work to offset those gains in efficiencies."

But it's not all hard work and no fun in Macon. For instance, come Halloween, even the leadership team will dress up and take part in a costume contest. "These activities may seem corny, but they go a long way toward forming solid relationships and building strong teams," Jones said.

Karl Cass, who began working at the plant soon after it opened, agreed. "Working for Boeing has been an important part of my life," he said. "The people here not only care a lot about the quality of their work; they really care about each other. That means a lot to me."

When this year's family-style company picnic fell on Sept. 11, the Leadership Team considered changing the date. "But after a while we decided that we weren't going to allow an act of terrorism to stop us," Jones said. "We were going to recognize and honor the occasion and turn it into a positive day. As it turned out, we were able to honor the occasion while celebrating our blessings and successes."

MACON a big splash



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