How New Digital Projects Will Impact Boeing’s Supply Chain

Credit: Boeing

Ted Colbert’s background in industrial engineering and as CIO of Boeing is becoming evident in his role at Boeing Global Services (BGS) as the unit connects the dots in its portfolio with digital. 

“We’re investing in making sure the digital backbone for our supply chain is nicely integrated and ready to support the industry needs going forward. That’s a pretty significant investment,” says Colbert, who has been BGS President and CEO since October 2019.

Ted Colbert
Ted Colbert

Boeing has a broad component business that includes consumables, expendables, parts packages, repairs and exchanges, lease programs and kitting—all of which will be impacted as airlines make decisions about what their fleet composition will look like post-pandemic. 

To keep costs down for itself and its customers, “we’ll use even more analytics to harmonize the supply chain to make sure we are managing supply and demand,” Colbert says. His team are also looking for opportunities that arise from the evolving global fleet composition. “It’s a really interesting and dynamic area. It’s also an important piece of the future,” says Colbert, and something “we want to be smart about and data driven.” 

With more than 6,000 aircraft in storage, and thousands of others parked, according to Aviation Week Fleet Discovery, speculation in the industry about which aircraft will get torn down and when is rampant. 

As the OEM addresses the uncertainties of how airlines recover from the COVID-19 crisis, Colbert says BGS has many initiatives underway with suppliers and customers to get aligned and “more digitally integrated” to help all parties better manage capital and performance. “We’re constructing a real digital thread to share data and align even more effectively with customers and suppliers,” he says. He describes this as a win-win for everyone.

By “opening up access to data on both sides, we can get demand planning and part planning right. Once you open that up, it creates openness. That’s when you get insight and create a real integrated system versus a system that has very large virtual or physical walls,” he says. “There is tons of value in connecting our systems.”

Connecting systems across the Boeing enterprise is also underway. “Model-based engineering is super hot for us,” says Colbert. “We’re using our digital system models and simulation to have one single source of truth.” Doing that brings the whole enterprise together: engineering, operations, supply chain and production. 

Cross-functional work also resulted in Boeing Digital Direct—Boeing’s “entry into wireless inflight entertainment and onboard digital services business,” as Colbert describes it. The new offering was formed through a partnership with Immfly, a HorizonX company. 

Boeing also recently rolled out military Airplane Health Monitoring (AHM), which is a digital tool for the KC-46, based on the 767 AHM version.

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.