July 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 3 
Integrated Defense Systems

Getting in SYNC

Adopting common ways of working strengthens Boeing competitiveness

IDS Engineering Vice President John Tracy Integrated Defense Systems is adopting common tools and processes throughout the organization. These changes all have one main goal—making Boeing more competitive. IDS Engineering Vice President John Tracy sat down with Boeing Frontiers to talk about how the change is affecting IDS, IDS Engineering and IDS engineers.

Q: Why are common tools and processes important?

A: The push toward common tools and processes started for one reason and one reason alone: to make us more competitive. We want to differentiate ourselves from other aerospace companies through being horizontally integrated and applying the absolute best of Boeing to whatever challenge there is. Customer requirements are increasingly complex, and to satisfy these, you have to integrate the best people from a variety of different locations. The only way you can execute a program across multiple sites is by making sure everybody uses common processes and tools.

Q: Are there exceptions, such as for legacy programs?

A: The guiding principle is that any new program starting up should use common processes and tools unless there's a business case for why it shouldn't. Existing programs aren't forced to use the go-forward tool sets, but our hope is these best practices will be so attractive that there is a compelling business case to switch to them.

Q: How much progress have we made?

A: It will be about a two-year process before we get the architecture fully defined in all areas. We've got a number of computing laboratories where we take these new tools and processes and test and validate them before we ask new programs to use them. The Go Forward Laboratories do this by working with datasets that are comparable to what will be used on a particular program.

We recently rolled out 18 new common processes that form the foundation of all our engineering, and these have been adopted by the Future Combat Systems and Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft programs. Every major site has agreed to transition to these common processes by mid-2007.

Q: Can these common processes and tools be tailored to fit particular programs?

A: Yes, we call it a Common Process Environment. They can be tailored to address the uniqueness of various products, be it a satellite or a C-17. With programs such as Future Combat Systems and the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft, we're learning as we go because we've never tried this before. Every once in a while we'll discover that we have to change our course a little bit to handle various situations.

Q: Could you explain the role of Horizontal Integration Leadership Teams?

A: HILTs are the way we accomplish horizontal integration across IDS for each technical discipline. There are nine HILT teams—one for each major engineering discipline—such as Electrical Engineering, Materials & Processes, and Test & Evaluation.

Each HILT meets at least once a month, and HILT leaders meet as part of the IDS Engineering Process Council. They identify best practices or common processes and propagate them across the enterprise.

The HILTs also focus on staffing and on developing ways to support multisite programs, so if one program is having a tough time finding people with a particular discipline, the HILT can level the load by getting another site to help.

Q: Can you explain the importance of Capability Maturity Model Integration Level 5 certification?

A: CMMI is an industrywide recognized standard for following processes and optimizing them. It allows you to have a structured approach to meeting your customers' requirements by measuring what you do and using the results to continuously improve. We expect all major sites to achieve Level 5 certification by the end of 2005, and we're well on our way to meeting that.

Q: How do we compare to the rest of the aerospace industry?

A: No one else has as many Level 5–certified sites as we do across all four disciplines of CMMI—Systems Engineering, Software, Supplier Management and Integrated Product/Processes Development. This is important because it shows our customers the capability of the processes we put in place and the disciplined manner in which we apply them.


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