March 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 10 
Commercial Airplanes

It's under control

Program Planning & Control gets BCA ready for a bright future


Tony Slama, Tonya Deines and Lowell Bergseid review the Integrated Program Schedule for the 777-200LR in the Everett, Wash., factory.Some say the more things change, the more they stay the same. Not so for the folks responsible for managing change at Commercial Airplanes. When they put their minds to improving their operations, their process improvements led to the creation of a new organization called Program Planning & Control.

PP&C is responsible for planning and scheduling the work related to building a commercial jet. This work used to be done in three separate organizations: Engineering Operations, Industrial Engineering and Change Management. The vision of PP&C is to put certain production-related tasks handled by these groups under one organization, to help streamline production and improve efficiency—which ultimately helps improve business performance.

While the formation of PP&C in 2003 was an extended journey—the first efforts date back to the early 1990s—leaders today say they're about to realize the results of their journey. And the timing couldn't be better.

Quality commitments

PP&C's efforts include tasks such as product definition, management of supplier plans and schedules, factory schedules including skyline (aircraft production schedule) management and implementation lead times, oversight of production changes on aircraft in the factory, and addressing aircraft in-service problems. Integration of plans and schedules also is a critical function of PP&C.

"PP&C is all about commitment quality," said Brien Akers, director of PP&C since late 2005. "And PP&C is involved in some pretty big commitments, such as bringing the 787 to the marketplace."

The formation of this new organization brought the wide range of planning and scheduling activity into one organization under one leader, thereby managing skills, processes and tools to make sure Commercial Airplanes plans are executed successfully.

"When it comes to situations like a ramp-up in production, we must be sure we have the capability to do it," said Mike Carter, PP&C manager in Everett, Wash. "Our role is to ensure we are able to commit to getting the work done, that our suppliers are capable of supporting us, and that we are able to maintain low costs throughout."

The change journey

Prior to the formation of PP&C, three separate organizations tackled planning and scheduling duties. That created a number of challenges. "All the organizations were focused on similar goals: what we're going to do and by when," Akers said. "As you might imagine, there was a lot of redundancy—and variability—by performing those tasks in separate organizations."

As work moved between organizations, a lot of coordination was required to ensure it went smoothly, and it didn't always go well. "It got particularly challenging when there was a new customer introduction or rate changes, as communication between the organizations was poor," recalled John Johnston, former Engineering Operations leader and one of the champions in the creation of PP&C. "Each group was working its own goals within a 'smokestack,'" or vertically integrated organization.

Leaders such as Johnston and Carter—formerly a leader in Change Management—knew there was a better way to manage their work. The organizations went through a series of "fits and starts" in an attempt to change the groups whose jobs are all about managing change. "All met with a fair amount of success, but the changes weren't sustainable," Johnston said.

Real progress started in early 2001. The functional leaders held a series of meetings to establish a vision for the organization, define challenges, design new processes and establish a framework for an organizational model. These meetings involved more than 500 people and generated a tremendous amount of employee input.

A long journey

A timeline of how the Program Planning & Control organization came to be.

Change Management aligns with Industrial Engineering (IE). Change Management process council formed, "single scheduling team" project created.

Start of employee engagement meetings to establish vision, technical, design elements

777 begins Program Planning & Control pilot program, merging processes among IE, Change Management and Engineering Operations

PP&C organization formed. Value stream process mapping begins

Core values established for the function

Functional leader of Program Planning & Control named (Brien Akers, PP&C director)

2006 and beyond
Continue to influence the production system, provide stability and integrate metrics

Largely because of employee involvement and executive sponsorship, they formed a pilot program in Everett, which ultimately led to the breakdown of the "smokestacks." PP&C officially formed at the Renton, Wash., site in early 2003, led by Diane Witte. Everett followed in April. At the same time, the 787 Program, led by Matt Bueser, established PP&C as the single organization on the program responsible for integrated planning and scheduling.

Leaders quickly realized the journey had only just begun, but it began just in time.

PP&C leaders and people now face a daunting challenge of defining an organization and making its processes as lean as possible after a record-setting year for commercial airplane orders. These leaders know that making good on delivery and performance commitments over the next few years is critical.

"PP&C and its statement of work play a fundamental role maintaining a stable production system," Akers said. "It ensures a smooth transition as production rates increase."

By being a single organization, the system can react more quickly to changes. This will help planners integrate activities and make accurate commitments. The merged organization also means resources—including people—will be managed more effectively during a period that historically meant massive hiring. "We've kept the 747/767/777 staffing plan flat while workload has increased, which has led to a cost reduction of approximately 47 percent over our base costs," Carter said.

Streamlining the dozens of processes and tools used by the three legacy organizations will improve quality and cycle time as well, and will increase the ability to process changes quickly, accurately and effectively. Akers noted that the organization must improve upon these legacy systems and processes, all the while maintaining—and increasing—productivity.

"We need to execute our current work statements even as we're planning for the future production," he said. "We have to ride the bicycle and fix it at the same time—without falling off—because so much is at stake."

PP&C leaders also are noting they have better metrics and visibility to those metrics. Carter said he is seeing opportunities that were not visible when there were three separate organizations. Thanks to this improved visibility, he has five teams in his organization that meet weekly, focusing on eliminating non-value-added activity.

The coming years are important to Boeing, and the people of PP&C will be absolutely vital to that success, Akers said.

"You are in the center of that importance, at a time when Boeing is doing record-breaking business," Akers said. "As (Commercial Airplanes President and CEO) Alan Mulally has been known to say, 'You always have to have a plan.' And planning is what we do."

Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.