September 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 5 
Commercial Airplanes


airplane tails in sunsetThey're back!

Air passenger traffic around the world increased by more than 20 percent in the first half of 2004 over 2003, and cargo traffic was up 13 percent. After some very rough years-and despite challenges that airlines face today-the long-term forecast for air travel is healthy again.

The end of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) global epidemic scare, low fares and the return of skittish passengers after the 2001 terrorist attacks are all contributing factors. But the underlying driver of air travel demand has always been economic growth, reflected by gross domestic product.


Living in a material world

Curtiss Robertson unloads floor panels onto a 737 from a specially designed cartCraig Jungbluth can attest to the success of the Materials Management Integration initiative in Commercial Airplanes. As a team leader for mechanics in 777 Final Assembly in Everett, Wash., he's learned about Lean concepts and has experienced the benefits firsthand.

"I believe in the direction we're going; I've seen it work," said Jungbluth. "Our process gets better with every airplane we work on."

Jungbluth is referring to an effort that began in 1999, "when the Commercial Airplanes Material Management community began working together on leveraging collaborative Lean processes, partnerships and technology to replace inventory with information," said John Daniels, director of Manufacturing Support in Everett. In the factory, this translates to improvement in the flow of materials, such as tools, parts and shop supplies.



Dave Walbridge, Kurt Linder and Brian Oelke demonstrate their new Lean processFour years ago, the 737/757 Airframe group in Renton, Wash., faced a high workload and the discomforting prospect of work moving to the Boeing Design Center in Moscow, not to mention an eventual 30 percent employment reduction. Instead of waiting for the inevitable, the team turned things around by improving processes, moving people into higher-value work and more than doubling productivity. Although they initially fought sending work outside their group, they've discovered it has made them more competitive. They now focus on improving designs to eliminate cost and reduce airplane production flow times. Their performance enabled them to bring in 7E7 work.



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