Boeing Still Improving with Lean


    Manufacturing overhaul will help Boeing avoid bottlenecks – MarketWatch

    Here's a Wall St. analyst who is actually high on their lean efforts:

    “The key behind lean manufacturing is not just the margin improvement, but the fact that you can produce more with the same infrastructure,” said J.B. Groh, an analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co.

    I didn't know Wall St. knew about lean, unless it somehow meant mass layoffs. Should we be cynical and think something must be wrong if the Street likes their efforts? Nah, it's the holiday season.

    Some highlights of their efforts:

    Under former Commercial Airplanes chief Alan Mulally, now chief executive at Ford Motor Co. (F), Boeing spent years working to increase manufacturing efficiency after the company's last bottleneck in the late 1990s. When suppliers couldn't keep up with production, Boeing was forced to shut down its 747 production line for 20 days and delay 737 deliveries.

    Since then, it has closed or sold some factory space, redesigned existing space to be more efficient, outsourced more work to contractors and implemented a moving production line in its Renton 737 plant.

    In Everett, it is also starting a moving 777 production line, in which the planes are arranged tail-to-nose rather than parked in individual bays.

    “As they bring up these new airplanes and move to a single production line, not only is the process itself more efficient, but it takes up less than a third of the space than using the old batch method,” said Robert Toomey, an analyst for E. K. Riley Advisors.

    Design and engineering offices have also been moved adjacent to the factory floor to facilitate collaboration and efficiency, Heathers said.
    Who knows if the outsourcing was the right move or not, but I like the sound of keeping engineers and designers close to the shopfloor, the gemba, to help communication. That sounds like “lean” to me.
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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. I’m not sure if “outsourcing” in and of itself is the problem as much as the offshoring is, with the long and unresponsive supply chains that result (requiring the planes that kevin mentions).

    2. My lean certification project involved working with Boeing on improving the ballast lighting for their 737 aircraft, and that was back in 2000. They have been on a lean path for quite a few years now, and pushing it hard with their suppliers. They appear to be very serious about their lean transformation, part of which has involved determining what is “core” for them and outsourcing the rest.


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