Boeing upgrades for B2B

Boeing Corporation has taken on the mammoth task of overhauling its core information systems in order to ward off the risk of bottlenecks in an increasingly high-pressure service industry.

Dr Stephen Gumley, Boeing Australia's vice president of information systems, speaking at the CIO Conference 2001 in Sydney today, said a $US2 billion global acquisition of engineering companies had been the main driver behind Boeing's shift towards a more modern approach to IT.

For the last 30 years, the 200,000-person commercial aircraft manufacturer has operated in a mainframe-centric environment; in the 90s it moved into a Unix and NT environment following a spate of acquisitions. "We support the maintenance of 11,000 Boeing-built aircraft in the world commercial fleet, and make four to five hundred new ones each year," he said. "We have 28,000 suppliers and you've got six million parts on a jumbo jet. We have to be able to trace every part - no substitutions."

"This is a huge challenge, and gradually our legacy systems started to kill us," Gumley said.

The $US50 billion multinational is in the throes of deploying several complex IT projects all of which, he says, are aimed at reducing the interface cost between Boeing and its supply chain partners and B2B customers from around 3500 companies worldwide.

It will also allow airline industry workers like pilots and engineers to operate in a completely automated environment while saving on operational costs. Overall, the system acts as one Internet-enabled face to the outside world.

Boeing went live in January with a combined enterprise resource planning and supply chain management system (ERP and SCM) overhaul, spending more than $US500 million on the DCAC/MRM (Define and Control Aeroplane Configuration and Manufacturing Resource Management) project.

The project migrated Boeing's entire commercial airline business to a single Baan ERP system, which was completed in 240 hours with 99.9 per cent accuracy, according to Gumley.

The company has also joined the online procurement "evolution", automating the purchasing process for part cards, reference books, paper systems and catalogues into a corporate information solution for end users in and outside the company.

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