December 2005/January 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 8 
Special Feature

Looking at things differently

Tomorrow's engineers—freed from competing processes, systems and tools—will be able to design 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world


This is the second in a series articles about an enterprise effort to establish common processes and systems across Boeing. The first explained how this initiative is being implemented in Operations. This article focuses on its deployment in Engineering.

Boeing engineers are throwing off technical shackles to better compete in a fast-moving global economy.

Dispensing with incompatible processes and systems in favor of those that are common, Boeing engineers across the enterprise will soon be able to design via cyberspace no matter where they or their customers are located.

Today's Boeing—composed of several independent aerospace icons that were integrated in the late 1990s—is moving quickly to bring its once-disparate experience and resources into one integrated enterprise. The transition is being driven by network-centric techniques. The objective: to have all programs and work sites, regardless of business unit, speak the same language. As a result, products such as the U.S. Navy's P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft and the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems, which depend on business unit collaboration, are being designed by engineers working with common processes and systems, many for the first time.

 Jim Jamieson, Boeing senior vice president and chief technology officer, who is leading the common-processes-and-systems initiative, puts it this way: "We have the potential for phenomenal synergy across the enterprise. We'll be able to design and build anywhere in the world, around the clock. Common processes and systems will enable us to move work to employees and use our talent more efficiently."

If a program in Puget Sound, for example, needs some engineering help, it can send work packages off to Philadelphia ... or St. Louis ... or Huntington Beach. It's a virtual environment where work travels to the engineer, not the other way around.

Jamieson heads the Information Technology Investment Board, which must approve all information-technology expenditures of $1 million or more. He is also executive sponsor of five enterprise process councils—Engineering, Operations, Quality, Information Technology and Supplier Management—which have primary roles in bringing this transition about.

The process councils are working in concert with the Boeing Information Technology organization, which is led by Chief Information Officer Scott Griffin. Griffin says common processes and systems will simplify the way Boeing does business, leverage innovation across the enterprise and enable new programs to get moving more quickly.

"When we talk about common processes and systems, we're not talking about IT processes," Griffin says. "We're talking about the processes by which we run the business—how an engineer releases a drawing, how we purchase production components, or how Finance closes the books. These processes can be made simpler, more standard, and much more efficient. Then we can attack the systems that support them as well."

The transition to common processes and systems is progressing well and gradually changing the culture. As the list of processes and systems is whittled down—and teams are finding some of their old favorites discarded—there is less talk about "winners" and "losers." The benefits of commonality are changing attitudes.

Ready, set, "go forward"

John Tracy, vice president for Engineering in Integrated Defense Systems, is chairman of the Enterprise Engineering Process Council. He is enthused by the progress that is being made and the success stories that are emerging throughout the company. Enormous strides were made with the selection of product-lifecycle-management tools for the enterprise, including CATIA Version 5 for collaborative product development, DELMIA for engineering Lean manufacturing processes and ENOIVA for decision support and lifecycle management. Adaption of these Dassault Systems products was advanced in the 787 Dreamliner program.

At the program level, the Future Combat Systems and the P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft teams recently implemented 18 Boeing process instructions for engineering and program management. This fundamental set of processes allows them to work in concert from site to site.

Tracy estimates that the company is about one and a half years away from designating a complete set of common engineering systems —called "go-forward tools"—for the company. In part, progress is measured by laying out the full process and systems architecture for the company and seeing which systems are go-forward and which are "legacy." The team also uses a matrix that looks at the company site by site, identifying which locations have already adopted the go-forward tool sets. Based on progress thus far, Tracy and the process council believe the transition can be accelerated.

The P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft is perhaps the most dramatic example of how the move to common processes and systems is making Boeing more competitive. The P-8A MMA is a military aircraft that is built on a Next Generation 737-800 body. The ability of Integrated Defense Systems and Commercial Airplanes to work together from many sites played a big role in the U.S. Navy's decision to award the contract to Boeing.

In fact, new programs are at the heart of the move to new processes and tools. In the old days, program managers—eager to innovate—would get started by selecting a set of processes and systems that were historically different from anything anyone had used before, Tracy said. This was followed by devoting time and resources to introducing and validating the new systems, and training employees to use them. While their intentions were laudable, the overall approach was slow and wasteful. Today, new programs are expected to use the go-forward processes and systems unless there is a strong business case to take a different approach.

The Philly-Everett connection

787 program managers are seeking out the best engineering expertise in the world. For the design of one part, they went to City of Brotherly Love.

When the Boeing 787 Dreamliner takes its first flight, Philadelphia stress analyst Mike Moran will be sharing in the excitement.

After years spent working on military rotorcraft, his group was asked by Commercial Airplanes in Puget Sound to make recommendations on the 787's upper side-of-body joint.

"It's not every day that a new airplane comes along, and I'm thrilled to play a small part in its development," says Moran, who has been with the company for nearly nine years.

While Moran has made a few trips to the 787's Everett, Wash., site, most of his work has been done in Philadelphia. The fact that Philly uses many of the same processes and systems as the 787 program was a real advantage.

Moran says he and his teammates were tapped to evaluate the joint based, in part, on their experience using composites. Composites are used extensively in the designs of rotorcraft like the V-22 Osprey.

"We've been given challenging work, so it's interesting to experienced engineers and helps to keep our skill sets high," Moran says. "It also gives some of the less-experienced engineers an opportunity to get involved in some very detailed analysis."

The 787 program has been a leader in the move to common processes and systems, which create advantages for work both within the company and with international partners.

Lawrence Dong, a configurator in the 787 program, notes that during the course of 787 development, engineers have had to manage hundreds of changes as the design evolved from concept to firm configuration. He says two of his colleagues—Ken Fowler and Dale Luke—have helped to manage this by creating a new tool called the 787 Trade Study Data Base. More than 1,000 trade studies were logged into the system. It's a relatively easy-to-use way for a large design team to address issues and develop solutions using a common methodology, including a business case tool. It gives decision makers a consistent way of evaluating the cost and value of various options, and streamlines the decision-making process.

The tool has been so successful that Integrated Defense Systems will be using it in the P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft program for the U.S. Navy.

"The real beauty of this system is that it took minimal effort to create a tool of widespread value," Dong says. "What made it possible is the common computing network we have in this company."

Bill Carrier, based in St. Louis, directs the IDS Horizontal Integration Leadership Team for mechanical and structural engineering. He sees common processes and systems as the most effective way for professionals within Boeing to share intellectual capital.

"It is a way for multisite programs to harness the best of Boeing across the enterprise at the team level," he says. "That's where I think we're going to be the most effective."

While commonality brings many benefits to the company, Tracy notes that the process councils and IT Investment Board are flexible when a program has unique requirements.

"A satellite is not an airplane, and an airplane is not the FCS program," Tracy says. "We fully recognize that we have many different types of programs within Boeing, and we take that into account when we come up with common processes and tools."

Within business units, planners take a bottom-up approach to deciding which systems should be designated as go-forward tools. IDS, for example, has entities called HILTs (Horizontal Integration Leadership Teams), which are composed of representatives from the various engineering functions. For example, the electrical engineering HILT is made up of the electrical engineering leaders from each site. The HILTs ensure that systems represent current best practices.

Giving the high V5 at BCA

Commercial Airplanes, which is largely based in Puget Sound, has an advantage when it comes to common processes and systems. It is less geographically dispersed than IDS and while BCA still faces issues related to commonality, its people are more likely to be speaking the same technical language.

Still, regardless of greater commonality within the business unit, Commercial Airplanes must adapt to the go-forward processes and systems designated by the Enterprise Engineering Process Council. Commonality is also its key to tapping the wealth of talent, technology and ingenuity available throughout the rest of the Boeing enterprise.

"It's a huge driver for us," says Mike Denton, vice president of Engineering for Commercial Airplanes. "There are people today from Huntsville, from Philadelphia, from St. Louis and from Huntington Beach all helping out on different BCA programs. Some of them actually specify that they want to use V5, the current go-forward CATIA tool set. This helps to promote and accelerate the use of V5 on their own programs."

Denton, who is Commercial Airplanes' representative on the Enterprise Engineering Process Council, notes that while the 787 program is getting a good deal of enterprise engineering support, there is also a lot of derivative work under way in the company's existing commercial fleet. It, too, needs engineering support.

In fact, the momentum for collaboration is building to the point that it's difficult to get a firm handle on how much work sharing is going on, Denton says. And it's not just an exchange between IDS and Commercial Airplanes. Phantom Works, the advanced research-and-development unit for the enterprise, has been a big supporter of the 787, beginning with early design work for the new airplane program.

Commercial Airplanes also sees opportunities for enterprise help in the area of customer support. Airline customers routinely call for advice on making certain types of repairs. Engineers from other business units could be a big help in handling this heavy workload.

BCA's challenge at this time is to transition to the new processes and systems in an affordable way. This is made easier by having a single individual, Jim Morris, responsible for integrating engineering, quality and manufacturing. As vice president, Engineering and Manufacturing, Morris is responsible for improving the efficiency and quality of processes, systems, technology and skill utilization across Commercial Airplanes. This is essential to building on the progress that has already taken place.

"When you look at what's going on in programs like the 787 and the P-8A, you find that there are a lot of Boeing people getting together to work problems—much more than ever before," Denton says. "Seeing this kind of unity and teamwork gives you a really good feeling about the future of Boeing."



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