February 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 9 
Cover Story

Corporate coalitions

Boeing, unions partner for process improvement

Wichita factoryFormer U.S. President John F. Kennedy observed, "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future."

Boeing and several of its unions have their eyes clearly on the future-changing what has been a wary relationship into a true partnership, focused on mutual success.

Several unions across Boeing have written into their contracts special articles or letters of understanding specifically targeting partnership opportunities to improve performance at the shop level.

. United Auto Workers Locals 1519 and 887 drafted Article XXVII.

. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 837 ratified Supplemental Understanding #23.

. The International Association of Machinists' contract contains Letter of Understanding No. 36.

The details may differ, but the concepts are the same: These three articles express a desire to work together for process improvement and to increase manufacturing productivity in Boeing factories.

The reach of these agreements is vast, as these three contracts alone cover tens of thousands of hourly employees in Canoga Park, Anaheim, China Lake and Palmdale, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; St. Louis and St. Charles, Mo.; Patuxent River, Md.; Portland, Ore.; Wichita, Kan.; and Seattle.

Hourly employees in those locations are participating in improvement programs in various stages of evolution.

UAW members have championed Employee Involvement since 1995. High Performance Work Organizations have been producing results since 1996, and team leader roles have been established in Puget Sound factories since 2002. All are directly linked to central elements of each site's performance and business strategies.

In true teaming fashion, unions and their members are working together to staff critical roles in work cells and on Employee Involvement and High Performance Work Organization teams through selection processes involving election, consensus or structured interview-a dramatic change for unions and their members.

Any hourly employee is eligible to be a team leader championing process improvements. EI team leaders apply for the position and are elected by union peers. High Performance Work Organization facilitators are selected by team consensus of other union members. Team leaders self-nominate and go through training prior to a structured panel interview with multiple raters.

By all accounts, these leaders and the people who partner with them every day are bringing added success to an already solid production system.

-Debby Arkell


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