Operations Management of Boeing

Subject: Case Studies
Pages: 5
Words: 1391
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Bachelor

Introduction

Operations management (OM) is a key process for every business since it aims at effective planning, supervision, and control of production processes and service delivery. According to Gardiner and Reefke (2019), it refers to managing “activities for creating, implementing, and improving processes that transform resource inputs, such as raw materials, technologies, and labor, into output goods and services” (p. 6). To remain competitive and profitable, a company should continuously improve its operations management to ensure the high quality of products and services and meet various customers’ needs. Therefore, OM involves numerous decision-making processes that determine the success of the organization.

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This paper focuses on Boeing, the largest aerospace company in the world that operates in two industries: aviation and defense. As a leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft and a provider of space, communication, and defense systems, the Boeing Company needs effective OM to stay competitive in various markets and business segments. The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze the operations management processes of Boeing concerning the four activities: Direct, Design, Delivery, and Development.

The Overview of the Operations Processes of Boeing

To begin with, it is essential to identify the relevant operations management elements of Boeing that will be analyzed in this paper. Directing the overall operation strategy throughout the developing stages is critical to all activities since it ensures their alignment with the company’s values and vision. In this regard, Boeing’s operations management strategy must be analyzed. It revolves around the principles of safety, quality, innovation, and a proactive approach to problem-solving. Designing the products, services, processes, and operations systems is another essential aspect of the company’s OM. Boeing’s approach to its product design, as well as operations systems and processes, needs to be considered. Another essential OM aspect to analyze is the delivery of goods and services, including Boeing’s planning and control operations, as well as capacity, inventory, and supply chain management. Finally, the developing activities must be explored, such as lean and sustainable operations, along with the continuous improvement of Boeing’s processes, services, and products.

Operations Management Processes of Boeing

Direct

Boeing’s operations management strategy is compliant with the organization’s vision and core values. As reported by Maull, McElroy, and Wingbermuehle (2021, para. 3), the company’s life-cycle approach is to “design, build and deliver each of its products and services with the highest standards of safety, quality, and integrity.” These three characteristics are pivotal in the aircraft and defense industries where Boeing operates. Therefore, the company’s OM strategy revolves around the principles of safety, quality, innovation, and a proactive approach to problem-solving.

The operations management strategy of Boeing is based on the use of the Lean Six Sigma framework in different production stages, which allows the company to manufacture high-quality products and respond to issues promptly. For instance, this strategy helped the Six Sigma professionals to effectively identify a problem with the Boeing 777 production, where air fan parts for debris prevention resulted in fan failure (Ahmad, 2020). As a result, the engineering team was able to alter the process and avert further problems of a similar origin.

Furthermore, competitiveness is essential for Boeing company, which dominates the aircraft manufacturing market in a duopoly with Airbus. As reported by Gardiner and Reefke (2019, p. 2), “the airline industry uses aircraft technology and innovation dominated by Airbus (Europe) and Boeing (United States).” However, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the balance of power between these two players currently tilts towards the European manufacturer (Gelai, 2021). As Johnson (2020, para. 5) reports, Boeing currently focuses on repairing its “Supply Chain, Quality, Program Management, and Manufacturing” to address the consequences and upcoming challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. In this regard, the company’s dedication to the efficiency of operations, technology, and problem-solving can help optimize the production and manufacturing processes.

Design

Boeing’s approach to the design of products, processes, and operations systems is associated with the use of new technologies and innovation. For instance, the company incorporates sustainability principles in its products early into the design stage for optimized outcomes. As per Maull, McElroy, and Wingbermuehle (2021, para. 32), “Boeing’s commercial airplane designs enable parts disassembly and materials recovery,” resulting in the reusability or recyclability of about 90% of its aircraft. Reduced fuel consumption is another priority that can be observed in the company’s design and manufacturing processes. Furthermore, additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, allows Boeing to reduce the use of raw materials and optimize product design (Maull, McElroy, and Wingbermuehle, 2021). Creating a sustainable future is certainly part of the manufacturer’s long-term objectives.

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In addition, the Design Thinking process implemented by Boeing contributes to the customer-centricity and relevant design standards used to ensure clients’ satisfaction. As argued by Grace et al. (2017, para. 26), Boeing’s “addition of Design Thinking to Lean methods provides the advantages of deeply understanding human needs and developing alternative designs that create breakthrough value.” Overall, sustainability and efficiency are the essential features of Boeing’s operations system that heavily relies on innovation, information technologies, and enhanced platforms.

Delivery

Effective delivery is another essential aspect of Boeing’s operations management. Boeing’s planning and control operations are centered around the process of Six Sigma, which allows for efficient problem-solving and timely response to risks and threats (Ahmad, 2020). Measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling manufacturing processes are critical for Boeing to produce high-quality aircraft and defense systems (‘Boeing in brief’, no date). Furthermore, the Kaizen method, visual management, value stream, and line balancing are utilized as Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma tools (Ahmad, 2020). A combination of these methods allows for a smooth delivery process by Boeing, as well as the ability to respond to problems quickly and effectively.

Capacity planning is part of Boeing’s efficient operations management process. For instance, facilities layout has been improved over the company’s history to ensure a more productive manufacturing process and value-addition. Initially, the assembly area was unstructured and poorly organized, hindering the operations and contributing to errors; however, a process flow analysis was conducted to identify weaknesses and optimize the process (Ahmad, 2020). Similarly, inventory management involves a more effective supplier selection to prevent quality problems and ensure relevant material requirement planning. Boeing’s supply chain management has been optimized by improving the existing and adding new operational control processes, including warehousing, logistics, asset life-cycle management, demand planning, forecasting, modeling, and simulation (‘Supply chain management, no date). These adjustments allowed for enhancing the company’s use of functional work areas and resulted in well-organized operations management.

Development

Development is another activity crucial to the company’s operations management. In this regard, Boeing operates following continuous improvement principles to ensure advantageous long-term outcomes. As reported by Ahmad (2020, para. 20), “Lean Six Sigma is used to identify and remove waste, eliminate problems, improve working conditions, improve workers efficiency, … respond to customer demands,” and optimize the manufacturing process. Furthermore, the company contributed to the development of problem-solving culture in all stages of product manufacturing and operations management (Ahmad, 2020). Sustainability is one of the top priorities for Boeing’s management that aims to correspond to the company’s core values: responsibility and accountability. Therefore, sustainability and continuous improvement are embedded into the design processes as Boeing “conducts life-cycle assessments to ensure aircraft design and new technologies are safe and sustainable” (Maull, McElroy, and Wingbermuehle, 2021, para. 7). Boeing establishes objectives to improve the allocation of resources, as well as the quality, delivery, cost, and safety of its production daily. As a result, the company has a competitive advantage and remains a market leader even in turbulent times of crisis.

Conclusion

To conclude, Boeing takes practical steps to continuously improve its operations management and control the production processes and service delivery. Its operations management strategy is compliant with the organization’s vision and core values, such as safety, quality, technology, innovation, and sustainability. To improve the performance of Boeing, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the operational mapping method can be implemented. It facilitates the understanding of the complexity of operational processes and allows for creating a balanced and dynamic strategy compliant with the current challenges. Another recommendation involves establishing a research department to identify and address problems relevant to aircraft manufacturing. Such an approach is relevant to the company’s proactive position in problem-solving. Therefore, it can optimize the use of resources and operations management despite the additional costs associated with the implementation of this proposition.

Reference List

Ahmad, S. N. (2020) Boeing case study: The Lean Six Sigma way in 2022. Web.

Boeing in brief (no date) Web.

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Gardiner, D. and Reefke, H. (2019) Operations management for business excellence: building sustainable supply chains. 4th edn. Abingdon: Routledge.

Gelain, A. (2021) Opinion: Why the Airbus-Boeing duopoly is on the edge. Web.

Grace, M. et al. (2017) Lean by design: The synthesis of lean and design thinking. Web.

Johnson, E. M. (2020) ‘Boeing shakes up new operations group amid COVID crisis: Memos’, Reuters, Web.

Maull, L., McElroy P., and Wingbermuehle, J. (2021) Sustainability is built in Boeing’s product life cycle, every step of the way. Web.

Supply chain management (no date) Web.