Case Study - For Implementation Engineers

Helping our client become a tier-one, Boeing supplier to build airliner flight-deck systems


Project Summary

Our (unnamed) client provides some of the world’s most advanced solutions for defense, intelligence, and civilian systems. Boeing engaged the client to help them build parts for their 737 and 777 flight deck systems. Boeing has high demands for their tier-one suppliers:

  • Obtain a Bronze Boeing Quality Rating of 99.65% by end of year
  • Move towards a 100% quality culture
  • Return gross margins to levels 4 years prior
  • Achieve the above without impacting current on-time delivery

To achieve the client’s defined goals, they engaged Implementation Engineers- an industry leader for optimizing manufacturing operations- to develop and implement their roadmap. 

Implementation Engineers worked with the client to develop and install a high-performance culture to improve quality and flow- working side-by-side with shop floor leaders and operators during the project.

Discovery- Listen and Learn

During a three-week discovery process, Implementation Engineers conducted and lead a series of town-hall meetings with over 100 shop-floor workers, across all shifts. This encouraged people to speak their mind, providing useful insights for required improvements. 

Getting people involved is a critical component for achieving major changes

And making new changes stick.

During discovery, three main areas came into view: 

  • Create a reporting structure to provide clear directions for engineers and operators. 
  • Build products faster by improving flow of materials. 
  • Build products better with well-defined metrics.

Improve the Capability of the Organization

With their market growth increasing, yet not having enough engineers to accommodate that growth, the client had developed a hybrid organizational structure, combining operational workers and engineers. Over time, this model became difficult to support- as engineers and workers have different skills and needs. 

Engineers design parts. They focus on design specifications, identifying technical tradeoffs & what materials to use, to name a few. 

Operators build parts based on design specs. They focus on building things faster, better, that cost less. Such as: improving flow, delivering on-time, achieving an expected quality with less defects, while learning how to operate in and grow a culture of continuous improvement.

Implementation Engineers helped create an explicit reporting structure- by defining roles with a clear purpose for engineers and operators

Implementation Engineers developed their new structure for people to clearly understand:

  • Who to report to answer questions and resolve issues
  • Their role, what they were responsible for, and how they would be measured
  • How to improve communications, share more ideas, and collaborate across operational areas, and…
  • How, who and why to consider candidates for future, emerging positions.

With engineers now focused on design, and operators focused on implementing their designs, it became obvious for everyone how to achieve explicit goals. Also, with reporting lines clear, projects were assigned and bundled into more optimal portfolio sets. Defects decreased and flow improved as engineers and workers were used on the right projects, at the right times. No longer did people have too little, or too much, to do at any one time. 

Team leaders benefitted, too. Supervisors, lead operators and operators on the floor now had clear roles, responsibilities and goals. Team leaders could perform more of their intended roles using their leadership and business skills.

Improve the Flow of Materials

Nearly all manufacturing operations have bottlenecks- with ‘starving lines’ for some stations and excess inventory for others. 

Together, Implementation Engineers and the client developed steps to improve flow.

They developed processes, using Heijunka logic, to release the right amount of parts, at the right times, to shop-floor work stations. 

Assembly workers now start their work on time, with the materials they need, when they need them. 

This increased velocity while reducing their work-in-process (WIP).