The influence of digital manufacturing continues to gain momentum at Boeing. As a part of our second century initiatives to accelerate productivity and growth, there is a deeper focus on how we are maximizing our digital capabilities to enable a more dynamic workforce and improve first-time quality during aircraft production.
This is an exciting time for growth across the industry as the idea of manufacturing excellence transforms into a concept that is more dependent on leveraging the right technologies at the right time and adopting a more holistic approach. Digital manufacturing is all about capturing those processes that leverage precision and build on our competency and expertise. What I find most fascinating about this topic is how quickly certain technologies are really putting the power into the hands of those who need it most in real-time– technicians and support teams working on the factory floor.
One major digital manufacturing capability that we are rapidly implementing is Production Analytics, which has proven to play a significant role in the way we better equip our employees to perform on a daily basis. Our production analytics capabilities integrate various legacy IT systems with new data visualization and predictive/ prescriptive analytics technologies, and are helping Boeing unlock efficiencies across our end-to-end value stream. With these new digital technologies, production analytics is helping our technicians and the teams that support them to:
• receive early warnings of potential part shortages and prescribe actions to the right team member to prevent them
• predict safety, quality, and cost performance
• assess in real-time job performance,
manufacturing risks and disruption, and
• visualize manufacturing flow, bottlenecks, and machine performance
At Boeing we launched our first successful Google Glass pilot in 2016. Since then, we’ve invested more time in understanding the intricacies of this tool including how to best manage a virtual database of information. The Skylight Application, from Upskill, one of our investment portfolio companies, has allowed us to introduce voice commands and touch gestures that ultimately help teams to complete processes more quickly. The ability to have access to a digital bank of information catered specifically to the tools you are working on within seconds is revolutionary because it means we empower our workforce to use technology to think on their feet and make the best decisions for their teams and the products they support.
"Digital manufacturing requires us to get back to basics in terms of capturing the predictive analysis that leans out our processes and promotes standardization"
Along with digital technologies, we are leveraging automation and robotics powered by data and model-based engineering to improve safety, quality, and productivity throughout our production system. Our Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM)model and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) infrastructure are delivering promising results through improved kitting capabilities and asset tracking proficiencies across programs. It’s a versatile experience in which we have a tool that’s simulating the factory floor and allowing users to capture costs with a wider lens of visibility.
Additionally, we are always seeking to bring innovation to the shop floor from inside and outside our walls. For example, Boeing HorizonX applies its momentum to new business opportunities to unlock the next generation of game-changing ideas, products and markets. Through HorizonX, we have partnered with companies – such as Upskill - focused on additive manufacturing, digital technologies, and more. Looking externally, we have found more new capabilities and business models to enhance how we execute our business within manufacturing and operations.
Digital technologies and innovation work hand-in-hand at Boeing and we are making strides to ensure that our latest innovations translate into real-world solutions. From an engineering perspective, we are seeing significant reduction times from engineering design to first flight and have successfully adopted a “build anywhere” model which has the potential to yield cost savings and minimize flow time. Both of these advancements were made possible thanks to refining digital capabilities to best meet production needs. For the first time we’re creating a network that exists beyond one particular program or location where everyone has access to the big picture. There’s a lot of power behind adopting this kind of model. Just think of all the ways we can unlock new potential.
Digital manufacturing requires us to get back to basics in terms of capturing the predictive analysis that leans out our processes and promotes standardization. The digital element, whether that’s integrating robotics capabilities, applying modeling and simulation, or exploring predictive analytics, has sparked a new generation of talent within our workforce. One thing I look forward to is sharing all of the ways that adopting these new technologies continues to shift our culture forward. I think in the world of manufacturing there’s still a notion that more technology means less jobs and that is not the case. Expanding our digital footprint equates to jobs that are safer and more productive. It means that we are using every employee in our workforce to their full capacity and making sure they are exposed to the latest advancements in the field. Aerospace has always been a cutting-edge industry and Boeing continues to reach its potential as an enduring global industrial champion in our fast-paced global market. From my view, digital manufacturing continues to be a vital tool leading the way in how we differentiate not only our products, but also the people behind them.