Boeing Frontiers
June 2003
Volume 02, Issue 02
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools


Southwest Airlines' Resident Representative gets the job done


Bill RogersIn cramped offices, just off a series of labyrinthine hallways emblazoned with colorful airline logos, sit groups of airline resident representatives. Stationed onsite at Boeing—often for months or even years at a time—these men and women are hard at work, each preparing for delivery of their company's newest airplanes.

Resident representatives are the conduit between their airline-employer and Boeing, ensuring that both are working together, solving problems and achieving milestones. As they share information and lessons learned, review a program's progress and work toward continuous improvement, resident representatives match up players from their organizations with those at Boeing. Together they strive to see that airplanes are delivered on time, under budget and with the minimum of issues needing resolution.

While some airlines feel the need to oversee every single step of the build, test and certification process, Resident Representative Bill Rogers indicates that this is not the case with Southwest Airlines. Known for being a one-man show who believes in operating lean, treating everyone fairly and partnering to find positive solutions, Southwest's Rogers is practically a Boeing institution.

Rogers joined Southwest in 1988 and came to Boeing in August 1991. Former Boeing Vice President of Maintenance and Engineering Jack Vidal asked Rogers to take over for a retiring resident representative, live in Seattle, work with Boeing and accept airplanes on behalf of Southwest for five years. It was understood that at the end of that period Rogers would return home to Dallas and get on with his Southwest career. As Rogers puts it, "that was 12 years and 240 airplanes ago."

Rogers observed that Boeing and Southwest employees have daily opportunities to use good judgment and lean thinking to conserve Southwest's money, save Boeing staff-hours and at the same time produce an airplane with an extended service life.

"Thanks to our working-together attitude and commitment to doing things in a lean way, I expect we'll be able to keep Southwest Airlines and Boeing customers safe and connected to friends and families for many years—long after I retire," Rogers said.

Boeing provides airline customers access to the Customer Quality Support team to aid customers in navigating the airplane delivery process. The group follows established processes before, during and after the building of an airplane to guarantee that it is delivered defect-free and flight-worthy. Rogers regards the CQS team as partners and trusts them like Southwest employees. Confident that those in CQS make good decisions on behalf of Southwest, Rogers notes that by teaming up with Boeing, Southwest saves time, effort and money.

In addition, Southwest is one of the few airlines not to perform a customer flight, instead relying heavily on Boeing pilots to test its new airplanes.

"The production test pilots are some of the best in the world," Rogers said. "When a Boeing pilot says a plane is good to go, then it's good to go."

As a resident representative, Rogers knows that he can't be all places at once, which is why he relies on the assistance Boeing provides. Over the years Rogers said that he's seen processes change and people come and go. Yet one thing has remained constant: the Boeing-Southwest working-together approach that has produced each dependable airplane.

While he acknowledged that he sometimes misses the day-to-day, face-to-face interaction with his Southwest colleagues, Rogers loves collaborating with the people at Boeing and Southwest to make the 737 just a little better and more reliable.

"I am very proud to have the good fortune to work so closely with the best airplane manufacturer in the world and the best little airline in Texas," Rogers said.


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