April 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 11 
Commercial Airplanes

Seeking Hawaii

737 Electrical Systems team builds Lean momentum in Renton

Photos by Jim Anderson

Chris Williams, Jeff Underwood, Bob Lyons and Chuck Wardrop discuss 250 newly identified kaizen action itemsThe 737 Electrical Systems Value Stream Team (VST) reached a milestone late last month when it became the first of 15 new 737 Program VSTs to build a "future state map," which shows what the team's work process could look like if wasted time and activity are eliminated.

Value-stream mapping is a Lean technique that helps these employees examine the production process of a given part or system from the day an airline commits to an airplane configuration until the day Boeing delivers the finished product. This intensive scrutiny helps them determine what work adds value and what doesn't--and identifies sources of waste in the airplane production system.

Last year, as part of the Lean initiative at the Boeing site in Renton, Wash., the 15 teams built "current state" maps to chart the cumbersome process a part or system currently passes through before going on an airplane. The future state map shows a leaner, more efficient process.

More on Lean

Lean is an area of intense focus for Boeing and its employees. To help take Lean to the next level, the company is pursuing its Lean+ initiative, one of four enterprisewide, long-term growth and productivity initiatives.

The goal of Lean+ is to accelerate the application of Lean principles throughout Boeing factories and also to move Lean into the back shops and offices. Lean principles must become part of everyone's thinking across the enterprise as Boeing applies these principles more broadly and more intensively to everything it does.

The Lean+ initiative is built into the 2006 business plan for all business units and will remain in place as long as it continues to work. For more information about the company's four initiatives, visit http://www-co.boeing.com/initiatives.htm on the Boeing Web.

Electrical Systems team members smilingly refer to their ideal future state--or the transformed 737 Electrical Systems value stream process--as their "Hawaii," another kind of state that's known as a vacation paradise.

During a weeklong workshop, team members built the paper map and designed an implementation plan to help to get them started on the right path. They then reported their findings to 737 Program executives.

"Completing the first of the new future state maps helps us maintain momentum in our drive to be Lean at Renton," said Bill Wahlke, one of the 737 VSM workshop coaches. The other 14 VSM teams are expected to build their future state maps this year.

"Process Improvement is one of the main objectives for the 737 Program," said Debra Englund of Renton Production Systems Integration. "This emphasis on Lean should help keep the program headed in the right direction."

Jeff Underwood, Electrical Systems team co-leader, said the team has worked hard to get to this point. "A year ago when we began the journey of mapping our current state, we knew that addressing our 78 kaizens [a Japanese term meaning "action item"] would bring about a lot of change. And it did," he said. "The team put a lot of effort into working those kaizens that were identified last year, so we were motivated to begin our future-state planning."

Throughout the week, the 61-member cross-functional team looked at ways to accelerate quality improvements and reduce flow time that would help meet or exceed 737 Program cost targets and other challenges. Along the way, they identified 250 new kaizen action items that need to be addressed before they can reach their end goal.

These items comprise a "kaizen newspaper," or succinct list of problems to be solved and actions needed. As examples:

Problem: Organizational alignment does not support late changes. Action: Cross-functional team to embrace late changes; a streamlined change vehicle.

Problem: Same data driven to multiple sources. Action: Single repository for data or a vehicle to drive all (similar to Boeing's TotalAccess pay and benefits Web site).

Joni Lund discusses the statement of work with team members
Mike Allen, Greg Lane, Mike Braulik and Joseph Igwe

"We want to embrace the changes and not wait for them to happen," said Bob Lyons, team co-leader.

As each team member reported findings, all agreed the biggest benefits of the process have been improved communications between Manufacturing and Engineering, and improved relationships with their Boeing customers. However, nearly every member reflected that it takes passion and pain to eliminate waste. "We will have a lot of hurdles as we continue this journey, but we will have to jump over them," said team co-leader Chris Williams.

"'Hawaii' is definitely obtainable," said team member Jon Lyon. "It is a very aggressive goal, but that's what happens when you have the 3 P's--Passion, Pressure and Pain."


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