Fast 5: Boeing’s Ted Colbert On MAX, Services Goals

Ted Colbert
Credit: Boeing

Ted Colbert, CEO of Boeing Global Services, spoke with Lee Ann Shay on March 4 at Boeing’s Chicago headquarters about how he’s adjusting to the job that he started in October and how he’s navigating today’s very dynamic business environment.

How’s the job going since we talked in November?

It’s a dynamic environment for sure. It has been a very fast start and it’s clear that our top priority for the company is returning the MAX to service. Everyone is focused on that. This is not ‘pull out the traditional first 90 days book and go with the framework and a plan’—this is, ‘you know exactly what you need to do.’ So our team has been front and center in supporting all of the MAX efforts while at the same time running our business. It’s been a very dynamic start to the job. I spend time with our customers and teammates around the world, and I’ve gotten to know other stakeholders in the business, partners and competitors.

Beyond the MAX’s return to service, what are Boeing Global Services’ other 2020 goals?

First, let’s start with the MAX because there are some pieces of the MAX that are important to us: supporting the training efforts around the world and making sure the capabilities are in the right place and the right time. Having the right part in the right place at the right time. From a resources perspective, as we help ourselves and our customers unground planes, we have a role to play there too. For the rest of the businesses, we’re staying focused on servicing our customers and knowing their pains points and where there are opportunities to deliver lifecycle solutions to help them with their business, whether its parts packages, used serviceable materials or MRO services. In the digital world, we’re going to focus our efforts on growing that capability. That underpins everything we do, whether it’s supply chain or training or parts.

So if you think of everything from parts to supply chain to MRO to training, there is still growth going on despite the challenges we have. We have to deliver on commitments we have made. We’re still working through our integration efforts with KLX, including economies of scale around warehousing, the completeness of our catalog and the speed to get a part to a customer. We decommissioned the Aviall brand and now we’re bring that together into a strong, highly capable, world-class distribution business. We need to continue to grow at the right pace--one day at a time.

Since we talked in November, a few more digital platforms have launched, giving customers more choices but perhaps making the digital analytics world even more disjointed. Where are you in evaluating Boeing Global Services’ digital offerings?

We execute analytics on more than 8,000 commercial and military aircraft--from flight operations to maintenance operations. We have predictive tools to show when to replace parts before they break. About 109 airlines use Airplane Health Management (AHM). Of the 85 airlines that operate the 777 and 787, the vast majority subscribe to the AHM predictive analytics module. We’re leveraging the strong foundation around this portfolio of solutions and listening to our customers about what’s important to them and how we deliver to them in the right way—from self-service to end-to-end solutions. There are some opportunities for us on the branding side and on the integration side that we will work our way into.

Does the 2020-25 strategy still include a goal of getting to $50 billion in revenue?  

The first priority is to get the MAX back in the air and the second priority is to deliver our plan across our businesses one day at a time. The fundamental thesis of this organization still makes sense. There is a lot of growth in the services space but we have to take that one step at a time. If we stay focused on staying close to our customers and solving their problems, who knows what the sky’s limit is.

I want us to be smart and focused in the context that we’re in: we have a lot of challenges right now. We’ve got to focus on the MAX, we’ve got to build trust across the entire environment, deliver with excellence in everything we do and still invest in our future. We need to focus on lifecycle solutions and some of that is about vertical capabilities that we’re standing up. We’ve got 8% of the market: that is a good starting point, but I’m going to hold steady in my projections—I just want to show and prove our capabilities.

Susan Doniz, Qantas Group’s CIO, will take over your previous role as Boeing’s CIO in May. Any insight?

Susan is going to be fantastic. I’m excited about her joining and I’m excited about her background that includes consumer goods, ERP and big system implementation, the latter which is really important because I spun up a lot of that in my last job. Also, she comes from an airline and understands the challenges there. She’s steeped in a lot of the work in our digital portfolio with regards to the tools and capabilities used to support and run airlines. And she’s got the analytics background—she’s got an amazing DNA and culturally she’s going to be a great fit for the company, both within the IT group business and beyond.

Lee Ann Shay

As executive editor of MRO and business aviation, Lee Ann Shay directs Aviation Week's coverage of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), including Inside MRO, and business aviation, including BCA.