ReBlog: Lean In Action

Over the next few weeks, I will be re blogging my most popular blogs from the past year.  I will be back blogging about business news and concepts in September. If you have any suggestions for blogs, feel free to contact me.


As you may know, I have been on a road trip through the States of Oregon and Washington. During a three-day stop in Seattle, I took the time to tour Boeing’s Everett production facility. The facility is comprised of three different buildings that manufacture the 747, 767, 777, and 787 Dreamliner airplanes. The main portion of the manufacturing is completed in the largest building in the world, by volume. The other two buildings are painting bays that put on the finishing touch to the planes before they are delivered to the end user.

It is obvious that Boeing has undergone lean activities. All workstations are cleaned and organized. Shadow boards were filled with the appropriate tool in the appropriate place. As you walk around the plant, you can see the flow of the production process.

Lean is now starting to become involved in the design of the planes. Over 6 million rivets were placed into the first 747 planes. With the newest version of the 747, over 1.5 million less rivets are used. Re-engineering of the plane with an emphasis on improving the production while maintaining safety has increased the number of planes made in a year. From the catwalk, it also looked like some engineers are now on the production floor to make it easier and quicker to have questions answered.

As in any company that is following lean principles, there are still areas of improvement available. Only 1 of 4 production lines allows for easy movement of the airplane during the production process. Two different production processes are utilized within the facility. Added training is required for workers to be transferable between the two production processes. Due to the body positioning that workers must put themselves into during the production process, some tasks require two people to complete the task. I also didn’t notice tool kits that could be easily moved in and out of the airplanes. What I did notice was production line workers spending time walking between their workstation and the shadow boards.

A very difficult problem to solve would be to move the paint shops to the same side of the highway as the production facility. As of right now, planes can only be moved to the paint shop at night.

Lean is a never-ending journey in improving your processes and people. Boeing is definitely progressing very well in their journey. Where are you on your lean journey? What projects are you working on?

Have a great week!


Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc ( L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

L6S Business Consulting will also be holding 3 sessions in regards to better understanding and using social media (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn). For more information, please email:

Social Media Seminars


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