Boeing Sets Parts Record, Launches Ops Suite

Photo credit: Boeing

When Ted Colbert, who is an industrial engineer, assumed leadership of Boeing Global Services (BGS) in October 2019, one of his goals was to look holistically at the business to optimize it. In particular, he wanted to look at BGS’s digital capabilities and figure out “where we have core strengths, where we have adjacencies and where we can grow,” says Colbert, in an interview with Aviation Week.

Two outcomes of that are evident through BGS’s announcements planned for the Singapore Airshow.

One was that Colbert revealed that BGS, through its distribution business, sold a record $2 billion in ecommerce parts and components last year, which is “way more than ever before.” Boeing Distribution’s (formerly Aviall) online revenue was 15% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The $2 billion in sales comes from about 70,000 parts and products. 

Commercial aviation sales made up $1.5 billion of that, a strong indicator that airline traffic is picking up. The other $500 million came from defense and government parts sales.

The increased e-commerce parts sales also benefit from work the company did during the pandemic to improve the user experience. BGS teams doubled down on consolidating the backends of its internally developed platform, as well as improving site capabilities and leveraging analytics to improve the overall customer experience.

Colbert credits these changes to its cloud-based platform with helping it gain better visibility to its supply chain. This improved supply chain transparency helps Boeing “improve our ability to manage working capital and inventory because the whole system just becomes more predictable.” This predictability, during these unpredictable pandemic times, has not only helped Boeing better manage its assets but also deliver better customer service through these insights.

Boeing online parts
Photo credit: Boeing

Similar to the backend work Boeing did to improve its ecommerce user experience, the second announcement is Boeing’s Integrated Operation Center, which is a digital suite of solutions for medium- to large-sized airlines. The customizable suite is designed to provide awareness across operations—to keep the airline on time and recover from disruptions. Capabilities include flight scheduling, operations control, crew management, communications, flight planning and tail assignment.

“This is a one plus one equals three effort—putting together the systems that we have today in a much better user experience…that provides enhanced workflows, better optimization, better data sharing and alerting across many of the airline’s business functions,” says Colbert.

As with other large industrials, there’s a tendency for capabilities to “grow up” vertically by function—“so you have one solution for this and one solution for that” until someone realizes they should be more integrated, says Colbert. 

The Integrated Operations Center’s backbone includes a “much stronger basic architecture,” APIs and micro services, among other enhancements, he says.

Besides the stronger IT backbone, the difference in the integrated product is that it’s designed around airlines’ operational decision making and “it takes the best of what we have today, improves the data model behind the solutions, improves the user experience and provides capabilities to make faster and faster decisions,” says Colbert.

He did not announce a launch customer but says BGS completed Design Thinking workshops, journey mapping and use cases to support better integrated operations. 

Overall, BGS generated $16.3 billion in revenue in 2021, 46% of which came from commercial aviation sales. 

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.