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Engineering & NPD

Boeing Unit Doubles Throughput Saving Time and Money

In a talk held at an industry presentation, Darrell Uchima and John Weisinger of Boeing’s Satellite Development Center reveal the unusual demands of a unique business environment. And how SMART Project Delivery helped their business unit deploy critical chain to stay competitive. Excerpts below.

Darrell Uchima

"Boeing is a very large company, divided into two businesses. Everyone knows the commercial aircraft business. But there are also defense systems, which make up about half of Boeing’s business. Within the defense business is the Network and Space Organization, which is about one-third of the Integrated Defense Systems Group. Within that group is Space Intelligence, where I work."

"Our business is unique in terms of the products and services we provide. We are in the satellite or network delivery business. Product diversity is pretty high. Weather, entertainment, radio, or government applications, very different in spacecraft architecture. The products are all different; the customers are different. If we have a production order of three, that is a very big deal."

Boeing’s Space Intelligence Business

  • Every program/mission is different
  • Typically, two to three space craft per program
  • Government and commercial customers
  • Expensive to launch
  • Limited power & space
  • Extreme environments
  • Product cannot be serviced

"Cycle time for our products is about four plus years from start to delivery. These products have a useful life of about 15 years. We cannot service these products; the quality has to be built in."

“I personally had a burning platform." (Defined as a real and immediate crisis, with a limited number of difficult and challenging choices; each of the choices is irreversible; and each choice has a high risk of failure).

"At a certain moment in time, we lost two major proposals. One was on the government side and one on the commercial side. And that alerted us both that we needed to make major changes to remain competitive in both government and commercial markets. We knew incremental change would not make the difference long-term. The market was changing, defense spending was falling. What changes would we need to make to stay competitive long-term?"

Two of my colleagues latched onto the critical chain method. We implemented critical chain using SMART Project Delivery in the antenna products, and with that application, we doubled the throughput of the reflectors, broke the constraint, and delivered two programs worth of hardware. From there, we took that application onto the larger-scale antennas that my organization developed and achieved large cycle and cost-reduction times and kind of took that across the organization.

"We were able to reduce by 20-30% our operating expenses that were controllable across the whole organization. A big change that happened in a matter of seven months."

"A dilemma we had was how to allocate resources across our programs since most of the execution plans were at the subsystem level. Realization showed us how to use SMART Project Delivery to pull detailed subsystem plans into what we call Super Projects. This is where each of our programs, government and commercial, were rolled into a Super Project file. So we could pipeline the programs and prioritize allocation of constraining resources.”

John Weisinger

"One of the benefits I had was I actually had a project -- this was a follow-on build. We had built three satellites. We had three years of downtime and we were coming back to build the next three. We had a particular unit, a satellite, that was very difficult the first time. We were doing some non-recurring changes to this unit. This would be a good test case, so we said let’s put this on the new schedules and see how it goes."

"They completed the project ahead of time–in 70% of the time they had scheduled. There were trials and tribulations along the way, but the team worked through the obstacles and finished.” John Weisinger

SMART Project Delivery’s Execution Strategy

  • Clear priorities driven by relationship to critical chain
  • All products using a common process and a common tool
  • Manage WIP
  • Visible metrics to all
  • Culture of open communication
  • Teamwork
  • Identify help needed early & leaders take action

Early success

  • Unit level Design for Manufacturing and Test (DFMAT) NRE project provided an early test–results were outstanding–completed in 70% of planned duration.

“This gave us the leverage to go out to the rest of the organization and tell them that we took one of our toughest units, we used this new approach called CCPM, and it worked. You need those successes early on. You need a way to convince people that you may have done something for 10 or 20 years, but there might be a better way to do it. So, we looked at rolling it through the rest of the program."

"So now we put our priorities based upon the relation to the critical chain. If a task is not on the critical chain and it happens to be late to baseline, that’s okay, right? We want to put our emphasis on our critical chain activities.”

SMART Project Delivery Enables Performance to Plan

  • Set priorities based on impact to critical chain
  • Daily Performance Board and Weekly Schedule Review Board
  • Proactively remove barriers to execution (respond to alerts)
  • Measure results -- % buffer consumed along critical chain and feeder lines

“I can stand up here and say CCPM, works, but I think it’s more important to talk about results. I’ve listed some projects here. We’re now into our second, and third unit level build and we’re building the spacecraft up. On a given project we went from 92 days down to 65 days. It’s not that nothing went wrong. Things happen, and we react to them. I don’t think we would be where we are today if we had tried to stick to the old method."

"I think this has been a truly powerful tool for us.”


Our client
  • Boeing Satellite Development Center
Client challenges
  • Uniquely complex product set
  • Two to three spacecraft per program
  • High cost
  • Product cannot be serviced
Our work
  • Prioritize resource allocation
  • Set priorities based on critical chain
  • Proactive decision-making from system alerts
  • Manage WIP
The results
  • Overall large reductions in cost (20-30%) and cycle times
  • One project finished in 65 days against expected 92
  • A unit level design project finished in 70% of time allocated
Do you want results like these?
Let our team show you the SMART way.