November 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 7 
Commercial Airplanes

Road map to the future

Road map to the future

737 factory teams map ways to make production more Lean


Talking kaizen

Kaizen is a Japanese word for gradual, unending improvement. A kaizen newspaper is a list of action items to help guide Value Stream Mapping teams in their continuous quest to do things better. The action items can range from simple tasks to major changes in processes. Kaizen is a tool which helps teams understand changes that must be made before a Future State Map can be defined. 

Cargo Systems takes off the blinders

The Cargo Systems Value Stream Mapping process improved communications between Global Partners buyers and the 737 factory. It also gave some of the buyers on the VSM team their first opportunity to see where parts they purchase are installed on an airplane.

"When they did the walkaround, the blinders were taken off," said Skip Wallawine, co-leader of the Cargo Systems team. "They saw where their parts fit—and what impact they have on the whole process."

Brad Campfield, co-leader of the Cargo Systems team, said there were instances when cargo-area mechanics received a kit with several parts and assemblies and "if one part was broken, they would reject the whole kit or assembly because they didn't know where it came from or how to order just a replacement part."

As a result of the workshop, mechanics know whom to contact to order just one part. "They are now rejecting just the broken part, not the whole kit or assembly," Campfield said.

Another result is that all part numbers are now listed on the paperwork that comes with the kit.

The Cargo Systems team plans to continue to meet and add kaizen actions (see box above). 

"The kaizen newspaper is a living document," Wallawine said. "We expect it to never go away."

—Cheryl Adamscheck and Robin McBride

Looking at a "map" that traces all the work done to ensure each Boeing 737 airplane is equipped with quality insulation blankets, employees on the 737 Blankets Value Stream Mapping (VSM) team could hardly believe their eyes.

They had not expected the amount of rework required during the process to be so significant. But the paper map they built showed otherwise.

"Seeing on the map for the first time all the places in the blanket installation process where rework is occurring was a shock," said Don Rozsonits, the team's co-leader, at Commercial Airplanes' Renton, Wash., plant. "Laying the process out on paper and seeing that more than a dozen different organizations are affected by the rework had quite an impact."

Discoveries like these are why VSM is such a valuable Lean tool at Renton. VSM helps employees look at the "value stream"—the production process of a given part or system from the day an airline commits to an airplane configuration until the day Boeing delivers the finished airplane. This intensive scrutiny helps them determine what work adds value and what doesn't—and identifies sources of waste in the airplane production system.

How did the 737 Program select which parts or systems needed mapping?

"We identified where we were having the most challenges from a quality perspective," said Debra Englund of Renton Production System Integration. "That helped us determine which areas needed work."

In 2003, the 737 Program established three VSM teams to study seats, in-flight entertainment systems and galleys—all commodities purchased directly by airline customers and delivered to Boeing.

In 2005, 15 more teams set out to look at various 737 elements ranging from electrical, cargo and water systems to lavatories and cabin-wall insulation blankets. Englund said more 737 VSM teams will be established in 2006.

Each Renton VSM team has had two co-leaders—one from Manufacturing and one from Engineering—usually along with representatives from other areas such as Quality Assurance and Global Partners. Team members work together to build a Current State Map showing how a part or system presently travels through the entire process from the time the customer identifies airplane requirements to delivery. Later, they build a Future State Map that depicts how the process should ideally work.

Inside a VSM workshop

During the first day of the weeklong workshops, teams literally followed the trail of the part, walking first to Final Assembly to see how it is used on the airplane and then walking back to the offices where the parts are designed and ordered.

On the second day, the teams split up into two subteams. The support employees (Engineering, Quality Assurance, etc.) were given a 12-foot-long blank piece of paper, while the manufacturing employees (Final Assembly through Delivery Center) received a piece half that length. They were told to trace the portion of the process that occurs in their organization.

At first, the two subteams stared at that "dreaded blank paper," said Bill Wahlke, one of the workshop coaches. By day's end, though, the map each subteam built was covered with writing and stick-on paper icons indicating tasks and factors such as "inventory" and "computing system."

The length of the paper reflects the percentage of time each of the two groups spends on the process. It came as a surprise to some VSM teams that the support organizations accounted for the largest chunk of time. "We thought it would be 50 percent manufacturing and 50 percent engineering," said Jeff Underwood, co-leader of the 737 Electrical Systems VSM team, one of the teams formed this year. "It shocked us to see how much upfront work had to be done before the electrical parts even got on the factory floor."

On the third day, the teams combined the subteams' maps into one long map.

On the fourth day, to encourage understanding of everyone's role in production, members of the manufacturing subteam explained the portion of the map reflecting the support subteam's work and vice versa. On this day, the team also began to review items on a "kaizen newspaper" (at right).

On the fifth day, teams explained their VSM maps and reviewed kaizen items with management, detailing which required process changes, which required a workshop and which needed more investigation.

Changes ahead

Cargo Systems Value Stream Mapping co-leaders Brad Campfield and Skip Wallawine demonstrate Cargo Systems Current State MapThe change in attitude of team members over the five days was often dramatic. "In the beginning, people were wondering why they were there," Wahlke said. "They often sat there with their arms crossed. By the third day everyone started to get involved. By report-out day, they began to feel it was OK to say where the problems were."

The workshops spotlighted areas that needed to change—and sometimes brought surprises. "Our team had been together three years already working on Lean improvements," said Rozsonits of the Blankets VSM. "We didn't expect to gather 50 kaizen items. So, one of our key discoveries was that we still have to continually improve."

For Underwood of the Electrical Systems VSM, the biggest benefit has been improved communications between Manufacturing and Engineering. He said one of the Electrical VSM team's 78 kaizen items was to also improve communication with airline customers. As a result, some team members visited 737 European customer Ryanair to get input on electrical problems the airline is finding.

"Addressing our kaizen items will bring lots of change," he added. "But everyone is really embracing the change. They can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Benefits adding up

Though most of the 2005 Renton teams have just begun their work, the three teams established two years ago have made progress in their quest to reach the status shown in the Future State Map.

"We have cut the flow time in the galley customer introduction process by 25 percent," said Bill Berkenkotter, co-leader of the 737 Galleys VSM team—noting that most of those savings are from improvements made in the work done by Boeing. "Our next step will be working with galley suppliers to reduce flow time in their processes."

To improve quality and consistency, Berkenkotter said the team has worked to simplify Engineering's drawing structure—and to standardize work instructions and training materials. "Most of those are on the Web now," he said. "We no longer have to rely on tribal knowledge."

Because another team goal was to create an environment that accepts change, galley engineers now meet on a weekly basis with galley mechanics. That has helped break down traditional barriers between engineering and the factory.

The 737 Seats VSM team saw a 20 percent decrease in the overall flow time of the seats production process, said co-leader Corey Blaisdell. Among the things the team did to get to that point: cut the time spent on introducing a seat model to new airline customers by 60 percent and eliminate engineers' seat-testing trips to supplier firms.  "We now rely on supplier staff and the local U.S. Federal Aviation Administration office to do the testing," Blaisdell said.

The In-Flight Entertainment VSM team also made some improvements by helping IFE suppliers reduce their lead times by two months, said Shelly Lynch, team co-leader. The team also standardized specifications; that's helped ease the installation of the entertainment systems in the passenger cabins, she said.


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