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July 2006 edition

The Boeing lean machine reaps healthy dividends

By Rod Smith

Just six years ago, Boeing Rotorcraft Systems suburban Philadelphia site was plagued by cost and schedule overruns on military helicopter production. Executives invested in lean engineering and manufacturing processes, training, selected outsourcing, and facility improvements that transformed the site.

Today, Boeing has won nearly 20 years of new and modernised production of U.S. Army CH-47/MH-47 Chinooks and is bringing in new international business. The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft will reach a full production rate of four fuselages a month early in the next decade. Advanced rotorcraft projects are expanding, functional organisations supporting production programmes are more efficient, and Philadelphia will add new production workers by 2010.

The transformation involved investments of more than $150 million in new plant, equipment and training.

Engineers are talking about driving nearly 50 per cent of the fuselage production cost out of the line at the rotorcraft production facility in Ridley Park.

Dan Meyer, director operations and Philadelphia site manager, Boeing Rotorcraft Systems says: “Focusing on core competencies, process discipline, and increased emphasis on teamwork and employee empowerment were equally critical success factors.”

He adds: “Employees were asked to make difficult changes in technical and functional processes. The Philadelphia team embraced these new practices and committed to new approaches with no guarantee of success. But succeed t....

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