Keep It Simple

By Alison Diana  |  Posted 2009-09-29 Print this article Print

Boeing’s IT organization has three primary goals: simplify the complex technology infrastructure, create the right alignment with business leaders and build a strong operation.

Keep It Simple

Through acquisition and organic growth, Boeing had multiple systems doing the same processes in similar departments around the world. By streamlining and standardizing on one or two applications, the company can save on licensing, support, maintenance and training, and make it easier for employees to transfer, he says.

When Hinshaw joined Boeing, the company had more than 10,000 applications in its portfolio. “Think about a factory and the way a factory runs—dealing with suppliers, how you manufacture a machine, the engineering required to design it—and they all have sophisticated systems,” he explains.

“Our manufacturing floor shop systems have been very important, and we’re well on our way to standardizing those. Having a common standard of systems across our factories makes a huge difference in productivity. I’d say we have another three years of intense work to get our portfolio into more of a common-standard model.”

Given Boeing’s engineering and manufacturing focus, CAD/CAM—which plays a key role in the company’s product success—was one of the first applications that Hinshaw and his team focused on. Boeing had been running about four CAD/CAM applications and needed to reduce that number.

“We’d sit down with key engineering leaders from throughout the company,” he explains. “It’s very important that the business process is established and the system is designed accordingly.”

In some cases, it makes sense to have more than one standard application. For example, in the manufacturing space, it may be valuable to use one application for airplanes and one for defense, Hinshaw says. “In each of our functional areas, there is a road map and plan to get from where we are today to the optimal state of where we want to be along the road,” he adds. “The biggest bang for the buck definitely comes in manufacturing and engineering—and supply chain goes in there, too.”

It is not, however, as simple as comparing bells and whistles. Hinshaw also must consider international factors, including user education and the cost of support. “We’ve got to be very aware of that and standardize what we can,” he says, “but we don’t want to overstandardize.”

Today, Hinshaw participates in a steering committee with human resources and financial Boeing executives who are looking into the company’s payroll and HR applications. “We were reviewing this issue recently,” he says. “The cost to do payroll locally was $100,000; the cost to standardize on a global platform was significantly more expensive.”

Alison Diana is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.

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