In a matter of weeks the world’s largest aerospace company pivoted to fight a pandemic:
- Activating our additive manufacturing network to produce urgently needed face shields;
- Leveraging our transportation capabilities to transport millions of pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE);
- Empowering employees to help through donations and volunteerism;
- Donating supplies to frontline healthcare workers and local communities; and
- Collaborating with partners throughout industry to support communities around the globe.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading around the world, numerous companies, including Boeing, pivoted their operations to help in the effort against the COVID-19 pandemic. How that came about is a case study in collective action, innovative solutions-development and adapting business to deliver what customers and communities need.
This is a behind-the-scenes look at what we did at Boeing, how we evaluated opportunities, and the actions all of us at Boeing took to support communities fighting COVID-19.
As the reality of coronavirus outbreak became evident, Boeing’s immediate priority was ensuring the health and safety of our workforce, as well as the wellbeing of our suppliers, partners and customers.
At the same time, we recognized that we could help our communities in the fight against COVID-19.
Inquiries and information poured in: from employees, media, external stakeholders, partners and customers around the globe.
The compassion was inspiring, but we needed to focus and direct our energy so that we could apply Boeing’s unique expertise, capabilities and resources to help most effectively.
We quickly launched a “How Boeing Can Help” campaign on an internal problem-solving innovation platform so that individuals and teams throughout the company could raise ideas and opportunities, and collaborate toward solutions. For years we have used this platform for tapping into the creativity and expertise of teammates throughout Boeing in order to solve technical challenges, such as developing more aerodynamic surfaces for specific product use cases.
Now we dedicated it to capturing and distilling valuable employee knowledge and ideas into specific actions Boeing could take to fight COVID-19. Boeing employees were quick to stand up and help in the effort. Thousands of our employees from more than 100 locations in 13 countries shared ideas and information.
We consolidated and solidified our focus areas toward what was feasible and most in demand, beginning with the urgent need for PPE among local hospitals and healthcare providers. We assessed requests and opportunities to use our machining capabilities, ways to apply advanced technologies, and offers and asks from suppliers.
We sought to develop solutions at scale that could be delivered in multiple local executions and that would meet local requirements and needs. Ideas that required extensive engineering outside our core competencies—or medical-grade certifications—were best left to experts in those fields. We sought to fill gaps we could quickly add value on and those where Boeing might be especially needed. We analyzed real-time needs as the shortages and challenges evolved.
From Ideas to Action
Thanks to that outpouring of ideas and the concerted efforts of thousands of employees, Boeing has been able to provide relief assistance to communities around the world.
Here’s how we did it:
To make face shields, we quickly developed a fabrication and assembly plan that leveraged our additive manufacturing capabilities and other tooling. With healthcare personnel confronting PPE shortages, we were able to address an immediate critical need with 3D printing. Our Boeing Additive Manufacturing teams validated design and supply chain requirements, and secured donations from suppliers for the clear plastic and adjustable head bands that connect to the 3D-printed frame.
We manufactured more than 40,000 face shields and donated them to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other organizations for distribution.Airlifting medical supplies and personal protective equipment
We recognized that we had a unique capability to airlift crucially needed PPE to help frontline health care workers and first responders. Shipping irregular cargo is one of our core competencies, so we knew we could make a difference, especially as many cargo carrier flights were backlogged at the time due to the emergent crisis.
In order to coordinate these deliveries, our organizational connections and partnerships with external partners, including state and national government entities, were crucial. Through numerous PPE airlift missions, our Dreamlifter fleet and other company-owned aircraft delivered more than 4.5 million pieces of life-saving PPE to support those on the front lines of fighting COVID-19.Connecting the global supply chain
We were able to connect suppliers and industry partners to facilitate the success of COVID-19 response efforts. For example, we received a request from a Seattle hospital that was launching a mask manufacturing project. The hospital had received a large batch of material from Asia, but needed a partner to help with fabrication.
Within days, we were able to connect the hospital with a supplier to partner on cutting fabric, and the project kicked off successfully.Volunteering and donations
From the very beginning of the COVID-19 challenge, Boeing employees wanted to help. Our employees donated more than $1.5 million to community COVID-19 response.
Along with corporate support through the Boeing gift match program, which matches employee financial donations, Boeing has also provided guidance for safe volunteering and resources to help Boeing employees make a difference with their personal philanthropy.
For example, we collaborated with a ventilator producer that needed electrical and mechanical engineering support in order to increase their production. We identified Boeing employees qualified with the right technical skill sets who were willing to volunteer, expediting the ventilator company’s expanded efforts.
And as a company, we have donated more than 225,000 pieces of PPE, along with numerous STEM learning and educational supplies.Coordinating with partners
Throughout this effort, we joined with coalitions of federal agencies, aerospace and medical associations, and healthcare organizations to share information and explore opportunities for collaboration. These partnerships were an excellent source of real-time information about estimated PPE needs, compliance, FDA rules, and more.
Our work to fight this pandemic continues. Now, a major focus is the Confident Travel Initiative. We are partnering with airlines, regulators, and medical specialist and industry organizations around the world to inform passengers and crew about existing protective systems and additional efforts to enhance the safety of air travel.
As 2020 started, no one at Boeing had the job title “pandemic response coordinator.” We had emergency operations and continuity planning functions, and a health and medical staff, but not a “global disease outbreak” function. Boeing was like almost all other companies in the world—we had to figure it out in real time.
Today, coronavirus is a part of everyone’s job. How we work has changed. Change is hard in any context—this change has been harrowing and heartbreaking. But we are learning from the rapid response to this crisis as we continue to support communities at this time of great need and shape the future together.