November 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 7 
Integrated Defense Systems

A Site to See

Under provisions of its military contract, there’s no public tour program at the Boeing site in Long Beach, Calif. Even family members have to wait for the biennial family day to get a close look at its inner workings. But despite the restrictions, a long track record of major customer events and frequent third-party visits make IDS Long Beach ...

A Site to See


When Ron Marcotte took over in late 2004 as Integrated Defense Systems site leader in Long Beach, Calif., one of his first orders of business was to share some disappointing news. He had to tell his Airlift and Tanker Programs team that they would not be rare back-to-back winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Just qualifying for a site visit by Baldrige examiners is a significant accomplishment for those bold enough to apply for the prestigious award.

But in Long Beach, not winning has become the exception.

"Recognition is important," Marcotte explained, gesturing to one of the award-filled trophy cases that grace entryways to the C-17 factory and the Airlift and Tanker Program executive offices. "But the value is in the hunt, not the trophy that may or may not come with it."

Those "hunts," often called third-party assessments, are key elements in the Boeing Long Beach quality-driven culture. In Long Beach, quality is a journey, not a destination.

Structures mechanic Thomas Barber drills out a frame splice on the C-17's center fuselageLong Beach programs—particularly the C-17 Globemaster III—have scored very well on these assessments over the years. In the overflowing trophy cases are Collier Trophies, State Quality Awards from Airlift and Tanker facilities in California, Washington, Georgia and Missouri; two "Best Plant" Awards from Industry Week magazine; the California State Governor's Award for Performance Excellence (the first time any organization received this special honor); the U.S. Senate Productivity Award; and more.

"When we won both the California Governor's Award and California Awards for Performance Excellence (CAPE) Gold award on the same day in 2003, it was a monumental day for the C-17 team," said Dave Bowman, vice president and C-17 program manager. "Receiving both awards validated our efforts."

These third-party evaluations are key to the continuous cycles of improvement inherent in an effective Quality journey. Long Beach teams welcome the "prying eyes" of frequent evaluations with unabashed pride—and it shows. In mid-October, examiners completed a week of intensive interviews, all part of a CAPE site visit to Boeing Air Force Systems business segments, including the Long Beach site.

Ron Marcotte

What's in Long Beach?

The Boeing site in Long Beach, Calif., was originally developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company and dedicated in 1941. Since then, Long Beach has produced more than 15,000 aircraft for commercial and military customers worldwide.

Approximately 10,000 union and nonunion employees at the Long Beach site support Air Force Systems, Airlift and Tanker Programs headquarters, and Logistics Support Systems businesses, as well as Phantom Works and Shared Services Group. Since July 2002, Long Beach has been the Boeing headquarters for the Air Force Systems business unit of Integrated Defense Systems. 

Major IDS programs in Long Beach include

•Airlift and Tanker Programs: Made up of four segments: C-17, Advanced Airlift and Tanker Systems, Derivative Airplane Programs (Puget Sound), and Tanker Programs (St. Louis/Wichita).

•C-17: About 5,000 employees build, deliver and provide total-lifecycle support to approximately 15 advanced airlifters per year. The current multiyear contract, signed in 2002 and valued at $9.7 billion, continues production through 2008.

•B-1B: Team of about 600 employees in Long Beach (headquarters) and Oklahoma City supports maintenance and upgrades to the B-1B bomber. Currently designing upgrades for network-centric operations.

•C-130 Avionics Modernization Program: Team of about 600 employees, including 500 in Long Beach, design upgrades to the C-130 (a competitor's product), combining proven cockpit technology with leading-edge flight-management capabilities.

In addition, Boeing Commercial Airplanes' 717 Program and Commercial Aviation Services (about 2,000 employees), which support Long Beach–built commercial jetliners, are based in Long Beach.

—Rick Sanford

Another characteristic unique to the site is its focus on Employee Involvement, which is now celebrating its 10th year in Long Beach. "Employee Involvement is a team-based culture that allows everyone to get involved in problem solving, decision making and running their part of the business," said Ed Schaniel, director, Employee Involvement for Air Force Systems. He also has oversight for Lean and Knowledge Management.

Customer events mean VIP visitors

Long Beach also hosts its share of customer visits. As the Customer Relations focal in Long Beach, Lynne Jungers also is responsible for event planning, which at times easily qualifies as a full-time job.

In 1992, the site had its first major customer event, hosting  Gen. Colin Powell, who was then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Since then, the site has welcomed heads of state, military leaders, elected officials and celebrities—including secretaries of the U.S. Air Force; former U.S. President Bill Clinton; and the United Kingdom's Duke of York, Prince Andrew. "Showcasing our site really motivates our team," Jungers said. "And it fires up the work force."

During Prince Andrew's visit, his escort, Charlton Heston, drew the most attention and—in recognition of the actor's role in the film "The Ten Commandments"—even shouts of "Welcome, Moses!" 

Arguably the biggest event since Globemaster IIIs started rolling off the line came in 1997, when then 94-year-old Bob Hope took part in a major celebration in front of 4,000 employees and the U.S. Air Force Band, unveiling a new C-17 bearing the legendary entertainer's name.

But not all customer events in Long Beach are large. Most C-17 deliveries involve a simple early-morning recognition breakfast shared by the delivery official—usually an Air Force general—and about 20 employees nominated by their supervisors for the honor. Key supplier partners are also selected to take part.

"The employees just love hearing from the customer in this informal setting," Jungers said. "And the generals are equally enthused to take questions from employees and hear what's on their mind."

On average, the site receives 10 requests each week from groups that want to visit the Long Beach site. But before any are approved, the on-site customer—the Defense Contract Management Agency—is contacted and must agree to the exception.

"We could be Disneyland, no question about it," Jungers quipped about the site's popularity. "But we've got a job to do and can't afford to interrupt our production team that's busy building airplanes."

What's up next for C-17 and the Long Beach site? In January, the Air Force plans to dedicate a new C-17 to the "Spirit of Ronald Reagan." There are likely to be ceremonies at the C-17's new Air Force home near Riverside, Calif., and of course a sincere sendoff from the gang in Long Beach.






Commercial Airplanes presence to continue in Long Beach

Boeing Commercial Airplanes has an important presence in Long Beach, Calif., that will continue after the 717 ceases production in spring 2006: the support for all McDonnell Douglas–heritage in-service airplanes, including the 717. 

Managed by Commercial Aviation Services, the support activities include technical customer support, inventory and warranty management, and spares. The CAS Long Beach team also provides technical expertise for freighter conversions and airplane modifications such as avionics and interior upgrades.

The Commercial Airplanes complex in Long Beach consists of the Douglas Center office complex and the 717 program and assembly buildings. Following 717 shutdown activities, the 717 assembly buildings and land will be transitioned to Boeing Realty. However, the Douglas Center office complex will continue to be home to the CAS team.

Boeing and Boeing Realty will ensure that monuments to the Long Beach aircraft-building heritage will be proudly displayed in the Douglas Park development, to be built on previously vacated land, across from the current Commercial Airplanes Long Beach complex. Such visible icons as the large neon "Fly DC Jets" sign are destined to become an integral part of the Douglas Park Community area development.


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