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The new co-director of the Lean Aerospace Initiative hopes to spread lean principles and practices to the entire aerospace industry through the group's new book, a summer course for executives and a new research focus.
Deborah S. Nightingale, professor of the practice in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, will promote an enterprise approach--working with a corporation and its associated suppliers to improve the design, fabrication and delivery process of a product--in "Lean Enterprise Value: Insights from MIT's Lean Aerospace Initiative," (Palgrave, 2002). The book, based on nine years of research, was written by a 13-member team led by long-time Lean Aerospace Intiative co-director Earll Murman, professor of aeronautics and astronautics. Nightingale will promote industry-wide change with an executive short course on campus June 19-21.
"We see a huge opportunity to impact the whole enterprise," said Nightingale. "We need leadership involvement for this level of change and we are seeing it--more senior executives are involved, both on the industry and government side."
Nightingale joined the Lean Aerospace Intitative, a research program of the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development, in 1997 with a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering from Ohio State University. She was head of strategic planning and business development for AlliedSignal and a senior research engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base's Human Engineering Lab before joining the MIT faculty.
The Lean Aerospace Initiative engages 17 faculty and researchers from aeronautics and astronautics and the Sloan School of Management in seven collaborative research teams that involve hundreds of people in more than 50 corporations and governmental agencies. It was founded in 1993 by the United States Air Force, MIT, labor unions and defense aerospace businesses to revolutionize the industry based on the lean philosophy.
"Lean" means adding value by eliminating waste, being responsive to change, focusing on quality and enhancing the effectiveness of the workforce. Research by the consortium has resulted in cost and time savings and quality improvements. For instance, it cut in half the delivery time for the GE Lynn aircraft engine.
Nightingale, co-head of the Lean Enterprise Team, directed the creation of the Lean Enterprise Self-Assessment Tool, released April 22, and other large-scale products.
Nightingale and co-directors Thomas Allen, the Howard W. Johnson Professor of Management, and an industry representative to be appointed will jointly lead the consortium. They will work with the Sloan and engineering schools, as well as the Engineering Systems Division, to recruit students, faculty and researchers who take a holistic view of large-scale systems and want to transform industries. The partnership between engineering and management will be even more important in this phase, she believes.
"It's the people, not just the processes or technology or products, that really determine whether you're going to have value," said Nightingale.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 8, 2002.