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TMI Boeing Team
  Left to right: Vince Giovannetti, MBA '07, Taoufik El Khazzani, MSE-IOE '06, and Wilfredo Durand, MBA '07

TMI Team Seeks to Give Boeing a Lift

11/15/2006 --

Students recommend ways to trim the time it takes to test new Boeing 777s.

When three University of Michigan graduate students started analyzing how the Boeing Co. conducts hundreds of functional tests on its wide body, fuel-efficient 777, the interns didn't realize how complex or rewarding the assignment would be.

To capitalize on growing demand for new commercial aircraft, Boeing challenged itself to complete a 777 airplane every three days, a production rate increase from its current output of one plane every four days. In addition, to avoid creating a bottleneck in the assembly process or incurring additional costs, Boeing identified a need to trim time spent performing functional tests on each plane from six to three days. If Boeing does not achieve this manufacturing improvement, it will incur significant costs for additional facilities and labor.

Looking for a more cost-effective solution, the aerospace giant tapped into the operations and lean manufacturing skills of the three students: Wilfredo Durand, MBA '07, Vince Giovannetti, MBA '07, and Taoufik El Khazzani, MSE-IOE '06, all members of the Tauber Manufacturing Institute (TMI) for Global Operations Excellence. TMI was created as a joint effort by the Ross School, the College of Engineering and industry to develop a new breed of executives with advanced capabilities in engineering and operations management.

The Boeing 777 team was one of 17 TMI teams that worked for 14 weeks this summer with corporate sponsors on what TMI Managing Director Diana Crossley described as "operations-related consulting." Projects ranged from developing a strategic supply chain collaboration for Dell Inc. and Intel to assisting John Deere with its Russian export business.

Durand, Giovannetti and El Khazzani worked with Boeing design engineers, functional test manufacturing engineers and functional test technicians to analyze thousands of details in the testing system, looking for ways to make it more stable, reduce variability and improve the tests.

Their recommendations included: Identify and manage the functional test critical path, reduce the variability and time it takes to conduct the tests, and rebuild functional tests from the ground up to avoid redundancies. Many of the tests for the 777 are legacy tests from older airplane models and, over time, the reasons for the tests had become blurred. The students also recommended Boeing make the functional test technicians the focal point for problem solving and future process improvements.

"The TMI students were excellently equipped and prepared to help us solve complex business issues," said Tim Thomas, manager of Boeing's Airplane Systems Engineering and TMI project supervisor. "I was surprised that students could so quickly comprehend and analyze problems of broad technical scope and complicated organization and functional dynamics. The outstanding and positive results they delivered could well affect the way we conduct business for years to come."

In mid-September, the Boeing 777 team took top honors at TMI's annual Spotlight! competition, at which students present their project findings to an audience of corporate executives, students, alumni, faculty and recruiters. Industry judges evaluate each project's scope, implementation and impact, as well as the team's presentations skills. Each student on the Boeing 777 team won a $4,500 scholarship. The top four teams earned scholarship prizes totaling more than $30,000.

The Boeing 777 team also presented its project at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and to the TMI Industry Advisory Board in Ann Arbor in mid-October. "I didn't expect that we would be involved in something so complex," said Durand, who also noted that the TMI project helped him improve his information gathering and team building skills.

"This was one of the most challenging and rewarding projects I've worked on," El Khazzani told the TMI advisory board. "Boeing is a huge organization. Boeing's management placed a lot of trust in us and made resources available. It was great to see how much impact we can have."

View the Boeing 777 teamís presentation:

For more information, contact:
Mary Jo Frank
Phone: 734-647-4626