Boeing Delivers First 787 Dreamliner. Cisco Delivers Solutions to Boeing. Congratulations Both!

September 26, 2011 - 6 Comments

Congratulations to Boeing on shipping it’s first 787 Dreamliner to ANA (All Nippon Airways). The world has been waiting and US Manufacturing has delivered. But it’s not just US Manufacturing – suppliers as far away as Australia, Italy, Japan and Russia, to name but a few countries have been working with Boeing Engineers to bring the airplane to market – and using Cisco or Cisco Partner technologies to do so!

The video, courtesy Associated Press’ YouTube Channel, shows the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner Airplane being handed over by Jim Albaugh, President and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, to ANA’s President and CEO – with a large key!

Jim does talk about the delays – but it was such a vast undertaking – and in the ‘old days’ it would have taken a lot longer! There are plenty of Manufacturing improvements that have taken place over the decades that have helped speed things up. Here are three Cisco Solution areas where Cisco and its partners made a difference: Cisco WebEx, Cisco MMVC (Manufacturing Mobile Video Collaboration) Solution, and Cisco Context aware, many using Cisco Unified Industrial Architectures. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 for any manufacturer who wants to know the secrets. Here’s how, and with customer comments to boot

1. That Global Manufacturing Supply Chain – how do you get folks collaborating to speed development and fix problems so quickly? Enter Cisco WebEx. As the largest user of WebEx web conferencing solutions other than Cisco itself, with people and operations spanning the globe, Boeing has reconfirmed its intent to utilize Cisco’s collaboration technologies by agreeing to purchase Cisco’s WebEx solutions over the next two years. As Brad Wright – Director, Boeing Information Technology – Collaboration & Communication Services said in the Cisco Press release recently:

“Boeing is an industry leader with customers in more than 90 countries and more than 159,000 people across the United States and in 70 countries.  We use Cisco’s WebEx meeting to effectively communicate across a vast footprint while supporting our cost targets, daily operations and customer commitments.” Brad Wright – Director, Boeing Information Technology – Collaboration & Communication Services

2. Now add more  collaboration. How do you get hold of Engineers or Managers to resolve issues in real time using ruggedized intrinsically safe devices for harsh factory environments and collaborate? Enter the Cisco Librestream MMVC Solution. It works together with Cisco Unified Wireless and Unified Communications (including IP Telephony) technologies, as well as with Cisco WebEx to do just that!

The Wall Street Journal has a great article on it, and I’ve blogged about it before. It talks about how the production of this airliner was a departure for Boeing in terms of in-house versus supplier outsourcing. Suppliers would independently bankroll their projects sharing cost and risk. And there lies the rub. Many suppliers were only accustomed to manufacturing from Blueprints from Boeing – they weren’t ready to manage sub-contractors or get designs approved by safety authorities.

Those international Suppliers were able to be part of, and have access to, a 24 hour center at Boeing and call in through translators to show Boeing engineers in the center close-up images of their components using the high-definition devices from Librestream via the Cisco network. As Robert Noble, Boeing’s VP of Supplier Management who ran the Center in 2009 says:

“Immediate, multimedia communications have eliminated the problem of often unclear email exchanges between distant engineers who work on opposite ends of the clock. That takes days out of problem resolution”. Robert Noble, Boeing’s VP of Supplier Management.

3. Where is everything, where has it come from, and where is it going next? Enter the Cisco Context Aware Solution with AeroScout. I’ve spoken about this before on my blog RFID: Context Aware and Location – a Brief History & Introduction, but a really good description of how another company is using it is here: Cisco and Partners add Business Value for Continental Tire. Boeing uses RFID in a number of ways. As I’ve mentioned before: things go missing! Especially when you’re a vast company like Boeing (did you know the buildings are so big that one has weather?!):

“In the factory, the ability to locate major parts and tooling on a timely basis is critical,” said Jim Farricker, chief network engineer and technical fellow at Boeing at the time Boeing installed The Cisco Wireless-based tracking system. “Even with fairly big parts, you’d be surprised how easy it is to lose track of stuff.” Richard Paine, network technologist, PhantomWorks’ Math and Computing Division.

The Cisco and AeroScout Context Aware Solution uses RFID technologies, back-hauled over a Cisco Unified Wireless Network, to locate parts, tools and wip so that production continues smoothly, problems are resolved quickly, and machines run efficiently. Did I mention higher productivity too?

So there you have it. As easy as 1-2-3! If you’re using any of the Cisco Technologies do let me know. I’d love to tell our community about it. Tell me how you’re using other Cisco Technologies too. If I blog about your manufacturing company and you’re one of the first three that contact me and let me share your story, and it’s published as a case study, you’ll get a $25 Starbucks gift card, so you can sit down and reward yourself. Unusually, Cisco Account Managers and SEs talking about their customers are NOT excluded from this offer!

Let me know!


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  1. Peter:

    I am curious: How many RFID tags would Boeing have “on line” in any given factory? Do they go down to the individual bolt or even carbon fibre? 🙂 Are these tags relatively large? (I assume they need some sort of internal power for WiFi.) Thanks, Joe

    • Very good questions Joe. The beauty of the Cisco Context aware Solution is that the RFID tags are not all online at the same time. In fact these are ‘Active’ rather than ‘Passive’ RFID units. They are quite small (less than 2″ by 1 1/2″ byr 1/2″) and are powered by a small battery that lasts for more than 5 years. The passive type do have their uses and are very inexpensive – rather like the security tags on merchandise in a store, buy don’t have the capabilities that the active ones have, specifically ‘chirping’ at set intervals to make the wireless network aware of where they are, or ‘excited’ by an exciter in, say, a doorway, so that their movement can be tracked though pathways. My blog RFID: Context Aware and Location – a Brief History & Introduction – talks about how this sort of RFID works. The tags are programmable for how often they chirp – the more they chirp the more power is used. They are often used for tracking tools and equipment, or equipment carriers or WIP cages, and are reuseable which defrays the cost ($25 to $100 in most cases). My other blog re: Cisco and Partners add Business Value for Continental Tire talks about the wip side of the business for Continental Tire of the Americas.The tags are getting so advanced now that they can also detect and transmit temperature and humidity, and even poisonous gases in some cases. Hope this helps. Let me know if I can answer any other questions. Peter

  2. Hi Peter – Why aren’t marketing managers eligible to receive coffee rewards?!

    This really is a great achievement for Boeing, especially considering the political and labor issues the company was facing recently over its new 787 assembly plant. I like how you outlined where Cisco technologies could benefit this type of process, and I hope to Have the pleasure of seeing some good success examples from your readers!

    • Thanks Andrew – well, maybe I could add Marketing Managers to the mix next time – really interested in those Account managers and SEs that deal face-toface with their customers everyday so I could quote them. But if I got a really good story from a marketing manager, well, maybe…

  3. United Airlines expects to be the first North American carrier to get a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with delivery?