June 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 2 
Special Features

On firm ground

Jim Morris, BCA’s head of Engineering and Manufacturing, believes in technology and practical business sense. It’s all about creating value, he says.


Jim MorrisIn October 1957, as the Soviet satellite Sputnik raced through outer space, thoughts were racing through the mind of a boy in Philadelphia who had just heard about the successful launch. To young Jim Morris, then a third-grader, the satellite wasn’t so much about the space race. As he listened to the Sputnik’s radio transmitter “beeps,” he thought about the incredible wonder of using technology to do something that had never been done before.

“I was intrigued by the challenge of applying science to do things and exploring a bit of the unknown,” Morris says. “From that time on, I decided that I wanted to get into the aerospace field.”

Now vice president of Engineering and Manufacturing at Commercial Airplanes, Morris is applying science to the design and building of jetliners every day. Technological advances still stir wonder and awe in Morris, although it’s firmly grounded in his practical business sense.

“When you get right down to our business at Boeing, it all has to do with creating value,” he says.

Morris explains that value is measured by improved cost, quality, delivery, safety, morale and technology. “By measuring these items, we can put focus on them and we can get better,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed taking whatever job I have and breaking it down into its pieces and understanding the process, then figuring out the metrics to measure our progress in making improvements.”

Morris gained his business know-how early in life. As a youngster, he worked in the family business—a distributorship for Wise Potato Chips—washing the trucks, sweeping the floors and, when he became old enough, driving the delivery trucks. “I learned an awful lot about running a business and the importance of customers and quality to keep a product going,” Morris says.

“At Boeing, I spent most of my career on the military side of the business, where I came to understand the benefit of technology in improving value to our customer as well as using it to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace,” he says. “Now on the commercial side, we’re taking that to the next level with the 787 with technologies like composite materials to drive better performance and operating cost.”


The right technology and disciplined metrics are important to Boeing’s business, but Morris also has gained a strong appreciation for what people can accomplish together.

One memorable lesson came from the Comanche helicopter program, a joint venture with Boeing and Sikorsky that involved the integration of many technologies, including engines, electrical systems, flight control systems and avionics. So how do you draw out the best performance from a team representing the best capability in the industry? One ground rule Morris insisted on was: Share openly. That included sharing cost and performance data.

“It was a challenge at the beginning,” recalls Morris. “But after a while everyone got to be comfortable with it and we learned from each other. If someone found a way to improve, they shared that lesson and we all got better as a team. If someone had a breakthrough in technology, other partners could use it on that program.

“As each of us gets better, the team will get better, and we can have a much better product.”

Jim Morris at a glance

Current position: Vice president of Engineering and Manufacturing, Commercial Airplanes

Experience: Joined Boeing Vertol in 1971 as an engineer in Flight Controls and Flying Qualities for the YUH-61A prototype helicopter. Worked on several other helicopter programs, including the Commercial Chinook, V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor and Comanche. Became vice president of Boeing Helicopters in 1996. Was named vice president for Twin-Aisle Airplanes, with responsibility for the 747, 767 and 777 programs, in 1998. Became Commercial Airplanes vice president of Supplier Management in 2000.

Education: Master’s degree in management, Stanford University, 1984. Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering, Princeton University, 1971. Bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, Princeton University, 1970.

Located: Renton, Wash.

In his current assignment with Engineering and Manufacturing, Morris leads a core organization of about 5,800 employees. But in the matrixed organization, Engineering and Manufacturing also includes all employees in engineering, manufacturing and quality skill codes who support the airplane programs, 787, Commercial Aviation Services and Supplier Management.

By delivering the right people, processes, tools and technologies across Commercial Airplanes, his organization is tasked with enabling a transformation of the airplane production system.

Morris merges his passion for technology, belief in people and business acumen to accomplish something that, like the Sputnik once did, pushes into “a bit of the unknown.”

“Everything starts here, because we have responsibility for improving and deploying common processes and tools across engineering, quality and manufacturing,” Morris says. “We have a huge opportunity to improve our efficiency and competitiveness by taking a systemwide look and changing how we do things.”

The organization also is integrating a strategy for advancing the technologies needed to develop future airplanes beyond the 787.

“If we make the right investments now, we’ll be able to move faster and much more efficiently than we have in the past,” Morris says.

And he believes we must continue to invest in people.

“Our team should get the opportunities they need to grow and learn so they can enrich their jobs as they go forward,” he says. “There aren’t very many people in the world who can say they’re involved in building commercial airplanes. There’s a fabulous excitement and intensity to our business. There’s just nothing better.”


Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.