April 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 11 
Integrated Defense Systems

Making it right

Process partnership helps Huntsville earn manufacturing honor


Making it rightBoeing continues to be recognized as a leader in Alabama—most recently by receiving the 2005 Alabama Manufacturer of the Year Award.

The annual award recognizes state manufacturing enterprises that show excellence in leadership, performance, profitability and workforce relations. Boeing won the award for the large-manufacturer category.

"We are very excited and honored to receive this award," said Geoff Schuler, acting site executive in Huntsville and Missile Defense Systems director of Operations. "It proves that the processes we have in place and the overall quality infrastructure of the site are successful."

Schuler said the site has worked hard during the past year to develop a true partnership of three key processes: employee involvement, Lean manufacturing, and process control (Six Sigma being the site's model). Central to the success of the quality infrastructure is involvement by employees at all levels of the organization. In 2004, the site formed 16 high-performance work teams (HPWTs); plans are in place for each program and function to develop a HPWT this year.

"Each team member becomes accountable for the performance of the business. They see and understand how their piece fits into the integrated product or service," Schuler said.

Case in point: the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) group. It participated in three Accelerated Improvement Workshops (AIWs) in the last year, resulting in increased efficiency and cost reductions. These workshops have involved collaboration among PAC-3 team members at the Huntsville and Anaheim, Calif., sites, as well as Boeing Huntsville's Electrical Strategic Modification Center.

"These employees are the ones doing the job every day and are, therefore, the best qualified to identify and eliminate inefficiencies," said Terry Roal, PAC-3 Programs deputy director and PAC-3 Seeker Production Program manager.

But employee involvement is more than HPWTs and AIWs. Huntsville is host to eight Employee Advisory Councils, which serve as liaisons between employees and management. While HPWTs and AIWs help employees become involved in improving processes and products, Employee Advisory Councils serve as advisors to management in addressing issues affecting the organization.

The second part of the partnership is Lean manufacturing. In 2004, Huntsville focused its Lean activities on PAC-3 and the Arrow missile. In 2005, Lean is being moved into its Ground-based Midcourse Defense, satellites and International Space Station programs.

"Significant changes in culture do not happen overnight. So it's important we take initial small steps to understand the impact of the change on our employees and learn from the results of the change," Schuler said.

The final component of the partnership is relatively new to Boeing Huntsville. Last November, senior leaders from the site and the programs participated in Six Sigma "Champion Training" (Six Sigma is process-improvement methodology used to help identify critical issues, find their root causes and identify preventive solutions).

Six Sigma and the highly trained practitioners "complement Lean principles and employee involvement practices by enabling teams to solve their problems using data and not conjecture," said Dan Allison, Boeing Huntsville Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance director.

While each of these activities, viewed separately, is common to many sites at Boeing, it's the interconnectedness of the three in Huntsville that makes them so effective.

"This is about exceeding our customers' expectations and aligning ourselves with the IDS strategies and Boeing's Vision 2016. It is about staying ahead of those customer expectations and vision plans," Schuler said.


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