The Future of Customer Support


Today, six months after the merger of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, the Boeing logo outside the Long Beach facility has become a familiar landmark. No one looks twice anymore when they see a Boeing badge clipped to the lapel of a Field Service representative supporting a fleet of MD-90s. And the Boeing fleet support organization structure has been aligned to support four additional models and a total of more than 10,000 airplanes in commercial service around the world.

These changes offered some of the most visible evidence of our commitment to maintain continuous support to our customers during the first 100 days of our transition to a single company. Just as important, but perhaps less apparent, was our concurrent effort to go beyond maintaining a consistent level of support and improve service to our customers on an ongoing basis.

By "day one" of the merger, August 4, 1997, our integration teams were already busy identifying opportunities to standardize our fleet support. To find these opportunities, we investigated how each company performed hundreds of support activities before the merger, then focused on the best practices employed by either manufacturer.

We are now embarked on the exciting task of implementing those best practices, with the goal of attaining a consistent, superior level of support across the entire Boeing product line. We're still working out the details of what that support will look like. We have to weigh each opportunity in terms of its benefits to the customer and its effect on our ability to offer our products at competitive prices. As always, we are looking at ways to make it easier and more economical for our customers to take advantage of the services we offer.

We are already getting some hints of what integrated support will look like. For example, we are moving to integrate Douglas spares data with the Boeing spares ordering and nonstop inventory control (SONIC) system. This will make it possible for operators of Douglas airplanes to check prices and availability of spares and to place orders on line, using the Boeing PART Page on the World Wide Web, the industry standard SITA/ ARINC network, or the Boeing SONIC format. We believe this will allow operators of Douglas airplanes to streamline their ordering processes and take full advantage our next-day-ship capability on routine spares orders.

Our combined management is teaming to support customer needs as we plan the consolidation of the Douglas spares warehouse in Torrance, Calif., and the Boeing spares center at Los Angeles International Airport to create a new Southern California area facility as part of the Boeing global spares network.

We also adopted the Electronic Maintenance and Operational Data (EMOD) software authoring system from Douglas Products Division. EMOD will help us standardize the production of technical and engineering materials. Along these same lines, we have taken the first steps to create a single technical publishing organization to serve both Seattle and Long Beach.

Service engineers supporting Douglas products eagerly anticipate implementation of the Boeing Communication system known as BOECOM. BOECOM is the common means of sharing technical information between the service engineers based at all our of production sites and the field service engineers based around the world. BOECOM gives service engineers a consistent format for all technical communications, including telegraphic correspondence, regulatory and safety items, and airline meeting notices. The system places all incoming queries in a searchable database to help engineers analyze issue trends and histories. It also keeps track of the date of incoming communications and notifies responding engineers of outstanding queries to help them meet response time targets. Communication with operators of the complete product line will be handled 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Further efforts to integrate Douglas and Boeing technical data will allow operators to use Boeing On-line Data (BOLD) to obtain technical and engineering information on Douglas airplanes in production, as well as Boeing airplanes.

Establishing common processes is a major focus of our integration activities. These activities will continue for some time, as it's not always possible simply to choose either the Boeing way or the Douglas way. We must consider how a particular process will mesh with other processes and activities, and we must look at opportunities to eliminate redundancy.

For example, Boeing and Douglas Field Service operations have much in common, so integrating Field Service will both help us eliminate duplication of effort and help us increase our onsite coverage of both fleets. The two companies had a total of 189 field offices before the merger. In the first phase of integration, offices that supported either Boeing or Douglas fleets will now support both.

When Field Service base integration is complete, we will operate approximately 160 offices, 33 of which will be combined operations. This will increase access to local field offices for many small operators and will simplify the administrative tasks of mixed fleet operators.

We have allotted two years for cross training service represen-tatives so they will all be able to handle any issue that may arise throughout the expanded Boeing product line. Even now, in our visits to Field Service locations, we witness veteran Boeing representatives stepping up to address issues on a Douglas airplane or Douglas veterans comfortably handling inquiries about a Boeing model. Soon this will be as unremarkable as the Boeing badge we all wear. In the final analysis, we will always consider how selection of a common practice will affect the customer.

As we go to press, we continue to progress in defining our integrated organization. While we will not continue the Douglas service of aircraft recovery within RAMS (Recovery and Modifications Systems), we will decide which related services will be provided through the Douglas Products Division. We will also expand engineering modification activities for Boeing airplanes akin to those previously offered by Douglas. Also, we are working out the details for adding designated engineering representatives, who have FAA approval authority for service bulletins, repairs, or modifications, to our combined customer support organization. Our recent decisions to continue to produce the MD-80 and MD-90 until mid-1999, to continue to build the MD-11 for the foreseeable future, and to build the Boeing 717 for the launch customer and begin deliveries in mid-1999 are a significant step toward defining our future product line. However, regardless of market factors that affect production decisions, our operators can be confident that we will continue to support all Boeing and Douglas jetliners for the duration of their service life.

We have chalked up a lot of miles visiting sites around Long Beach and Puget Sound. Every place we visit we find people intent on meeting our commitments to our customers and making our support even better.

We are eager to share news of our progress so airlines can begin to reap the benefits of our improvement efforts promptly. We will use all means available to communicate developments in our support offerings as details become available.

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SPOTLIGHT ON TRAINING
Douglas has long operated a training facility in Long Beach. When this magazine went to press, Boeing was continuing to address the integration of the Douglas training facility with the new FlightSafety Boeing Training International training network. As part of its commitment to making all levels of training more accessible to customers, the company is integrating training operations to give operators more choices and greater flexibility in training flight, cabin, and maintenance crews.

Toby Bright
Vice President
Customer Support
Boeing Commercial Airplane Group

Darce Lamb
Vice President
Airline Logistics Support
Boeing Commercial Airplane Group

George Field
Vice President
Technical Services
Boeing Commercial Airplane Group

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