Boeing Frontiers
August 2003
Volume 02, Issue 04
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Cover Story

The Boeing of Tomorrow


There's an engineer in Winnipeg, Canada. There's another engineer in Everett. They are working together on the same airplane design on the same computer, at the same time, side by side. Physically, they are a thousands miles apart. There's a Boeing customer in India. There's a Boeing salesperson in Japan. Together, they simultaneously see the data the customer needs to make a good business decision. There's a Boeing employee at home in Philadelphia taking a class in Web design with people in cities around the world. They talk together, design together and learn together. That's the Boeing of tomorrow.

"Boeing is becoming a lean, global enterprise," explained Scott Griffin, Boeing chief information officer. "And we will look different as a result."

Griffin sees at least three fundamental changes ahead. First, he said Boeing will operate as a network-centric enterprise.

"We will be able to move information rapidly up and down and across the enterprise, making us more nimble in reacting to changing market conditions," he said.

Next, much of the Boeing workforce will be mobile, and therefore the look of the physical workplace will change. Mobile employees will be able to use workspace in different locations just as effectively as today where they "own" their workspace.

"It will allow us to put together cross-functional teams quickly, allow support personnel to work alongside their customers, and allow our suppliers to work effectively alongside us," Griffin said.

And, finally, Boeing will collaborate and work together with partners, suppliers and customers anywhere in the world as if everyone were in the same room.

Of course, this lean, global enterprise will require new supporting technology and tools.

Griffin believes certain technologies are particularly important in enabling the changing enterprise.

"First and foremost is the technology that allows secure access to the information we need to do our jobs," Griffin said.

ForumPass brings together suppliers, customers and Boeing

When Orville and Wilbur Wright designed and built the 1903 Wright Flier a century ago, they worked together on the 12-horsepower wire, wood and fabric airplane face-to-face. Two people, one airplane, few materials to buy. Fastforward 100 years. The aerospace industry has evolved into an electronic marketplace where thousands of industry workers—separated by distance, languages and time zones—connect and collaborate 24 hours a day by using e-enabling tools and services.

One example of how Boeing employees successfully collaborate with customers and suppliers using e-enabling technology is through ForumPass—a Boeing-Supplier Web-based virtual team room which streamlines team communication and reduces variability and cycle time. With a click of a mouse and the use of the Internet, they collaborate together in one virtual teaming room.

"These new e-collaboration products and services, like ForumPass, enable networking and working together and provides immediate access to information," said Scott Griffin, Boeing chief information officer. "ForumPass supports the evolving supply chain processes as well as our company's key strategy of 'information available to anyone, anytime and anywhere in the global enterprise.'"

The Boeing 7E7 Program is the first new airplane program to use ForumPass during the beginning design phase. A decade ago the 777 Program used Design/Build Teams to work together. ForumPass supports virtual DBTs, bringing together geographically diverse teams.

"We use ForumPass for general team-room collaboration activities, and our usage is growing as 7E7 continues adding to its global team," said Michael Sinnett, 7E7 Systems chief engineer and Life Cycle Product Team leader. "Using ForumPass allows our program to streamline communications—especially with our suppliers and partners around the world—in a team environment," Sinnett added.

"Exostar and ForumPass have been very useful as a secure method to transmit data between Boeing and the supplier," said Rich Bahl, 7E7 Electrical Power Generation and Control Systems engineer. "It allows us to collaborate more efficiently," Bahl explained.

—Stephanie Mudgett

"That's the foundation."

Security technologies and challenges are changing rapidly, and Boeing is working to keep up with the ever-changing environment. Security technology allows Boeing to grant individuals and teams access to company information based on need.

Another transformational technology, Griffin said, is Extensible Markup Language. XML provides a common language and data format allowing companies to share information across the enterprise (customers, partners and suppliers) independent of where that data was created.

Also, multiple devices workers use today to access information are merging. Cell phones, pagers, laptops, personal digital assistants, fax machines, digital watches, Global Positioning System devices, and more are converging into single units allowing the mobile employee to be connected wherever he or she happens to be working.

And collaboration technologies are changing the way teams work together, Griffin said. Engineers, accountants, auditors, programmers, analysts and more will be able to work together as if they are sitting side by side in the same room.

Leading the change

"It is all part of where Boeing is going," agreed Bonnie Soodik, president of Shared Services Group. "It is a movement from the hierarchical system to network-centric systems. This approach will change the way we do business."

One of the Virtual Workplace projects for SSG is centered at the Boeing Electronics Center in Renton, Wash. By the end of the year, some 800 out of the 1,200 employees at the former Boeing Electronics Company (BECo) site will be "virtual"—telecommuting, co-locating with customers or working in "hoteling" space.

Observing the impact of this "pilot" program for SSG is Rick Muttart, program manager for Virtual Workplace, reporting to Kristi Savacool, SSG vice president of Workplace Services.

"My job is to determine what the service offerings will be for SSG with respect to the virtual workplace, and then develop the tools and the processes for an enterprisewide deployment," Muttart explained.

"We're trying to learn from BECo what works and what does not work. Based on what we learn here, we will determine what makes sense for SSG to provide as a service, and what makes sense for organizations within the company to decide for themselves."

Although not all Boeing employees, such as those on aircraft production lines, have jobs they can or should perform virtually, it can make sense for those who do. Muttart pointed out that data from other companies suggests that individual productivity and satisfaction goes up as employees work in a virtual environment.

"Sun Microsystems has told us that their employees' satisfaction index has gone up 20 points over five years for people who are involved in virtual," he said.

In addition to the potential of having more satisfied employees, it reduces the amount of office space needed.

Large-scale deployment of the virtual workplace plan could reduce the total square footage of office space in the company by as much as 20 or 25 percent, he said. That would mean a reduction of about 4 or 5 million square feet of space over the next five to eight years as people become less dependent on assigned office space.

Because more and more people have access to high-speed data transmission around the country, the "virtual world" Griffin described has become possible.

"Technology is maturing to a point where it is much easier for people to work in a virtual environment," Muttart said. "We watch our children interact via the Internet with their friends. When they enter the workforce, they will expect to interact the same way with co-workers."

Working virtually will also reduce the number of vehicles on the crowded highways and interstates. Not only is that a benefit for the employee, but for the community and environment as well.

One concept for employees working virtually is to provide "hotel" space, a location where employees can reserve a place to work on a Boeing site. Muttart said he sees that today's "hoteling" concept will evolve into a whole new kind of workplace environment.

For example, a Boeing employee from Seattle might check into a Boeing hoteling spot in Chicago. There, she is able to use her "smart" Boeing badge to access personal data on computers onsite. She hasn't had to tote her portable between cities. The badge is all she needs.

The hoteling site provides her with printing, copying and conferencing facilities. She might be met by a person whose job is to make sure hoteling clients have what they need.

"What a neat job that would be," Muttart said.

Conjecture aside, one thing is clear. Things already are changing.

"When an organization grows virtual, the support structure that was resident in the old organization goes away," Muttart said.

"Locations of office supplies, mail-stop location, coffee pots, printers, copiers and all the daily support will change for the virtual workers.

"SSG will need to be more focused on being able to meet the individual needs. Today our concept is hoteling is merely a place to reserve a desk spot and to plug in. As we develop the service offering it might be a more bundled approach from SSG services that meets individual needs."

Muttart also stressed that the virtual workplace is not just about giving employees a laptop and a cell phone and letting them work from wherever they need to be.

"If I send one message it is that Virtual Office is about how people get together to build, execute and monitor a work plan. Then the location—where they do the work—actually becomes secondary.

"In some respects it may be a much more disciplined and collaborative environment than exists in many physical workplaces today," he added.

Muttart explained that the initiatives driving the changing work environment include the development of the "smart badge," new information-sharing architecture, virtual work, and a comprehensive real estate strategy to reduce square footage of office space.

"They aren't happening in a vacuum." he said, "It is all part of a comprehensive plan to empower people to contribute more by connecting them with the information they need and flattening our processes to operate in the most lean and efficient way possible, all to keep The Boeing Company a leader."

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