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Frontiers September 2013 Issue

Mobilizing Boeing’s front line Growing use of tablet devices on production lines boosts efficiency, safety and quality By Kenn Johnson and Meghan Boyer; photos by Bob Ferguson Gabe Hernandez used to begin his shift at Boeing’s Mesa, Ariz., facility by consulting work plans at a desktop computer or laptop. Now he starts by transferring data to an Apple iPad. An assembly technician for the AH-64D Apache, Hernandez transfers details of the day’s jobs from a shared computer to his mobile device—including part descriptions, assembly instructions, drawings and even photographs of work areas. With the work instructions loaded on the iPad, all of the information Hernandez needs is at hand—and remains so, even if he’s on the go. He can work on the aircraft without having to return to the computer bay repeatedly for more information, an improvement that saves him time. “Before, I either had to carry a laptop, which I had to find space for, or go out to a station computer,” Hernandez said. “It’s a lot easier to put the iPad in a tool bag and take it so I have it when I need it.” As the technology has evolved, Boeing Information Technology has been exploring how the use of slate-style tablet devices and related software can improve the company’s manufacturing and business processes. Tablets may not be the best tool for every factory application, but when deployed in the right places, they can create myriad shop-floor improvements. In Boeing’s Apache line and the C-17 Globemaster II line in Long Beach, Calif., employees who use tablet devices are finding they can accomplish more in less time and with less effort, said Bill Black, a Boeing Military Aircraft IT Business Partner and IT leader for the C-17 Program. That productivity gain translates into improvements in cost control, product quality, production flexibility and safety—all of which are important for the business programs and the customers they support. “We went from having mechanics carry paper documents to their workstations to having electronic workstations in the work centers,” said Bill Warren, a senior project manager at the Mesa site. “Now, employees can take their work instructions with them on a tablet and save time and money without the BOEING FRONTIERS / SEPTEMBER 2013 21


Frontiers September 2013 Issue
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