Boeing’s digital transformation journey: interview with Kenny Swope

PDF Association staff // June 4, 2019

PDF in general 3D PDF Interview


Kenny SwopeKenneth (Kenny) Swope chairs the Boeing company's Enterprise Business Architecture Team and is responsible for the company’s Commercial Airplanes Business Capabilities Architecture organization which oversees the integrated set of architecture products that describe Boeing’s multiple lines of business.

In preparation for his keynote session at the Electronic Document Conference in Seattle, June 17-18 2019, we asked him a few questions about Boeing's digital transformation and the company's use of - and commitment to - PDF technology.

PDF Association: How far along Boeing’s digital transformation journey would you say the company is today?

Kenny Swope: Boeing has been engaged in digitizing its operations since the earliest days of computing with incredible advances through innovation at each phase. I use the word digitization quite precisely as those advancement were one of two primary flavors. The first was to automate mundane tasks that were being performed while the second was to take advantage of the computer’s power to enable new solutions to complex problems. In both cases, the result was confined to the workgroup that created it. In later years, connections between computer systems was enabled in order to facilitate the transfer of data from one department or company to another. More and more complex interfaces were built yet the fundamental principles that were automated continue to be based on processes developed when paper was the only solution available. This is digitization. With digital transformation, the concept is to start with the process and reimagine how work is achieved when all barriers to the exchange of information is removed. This concept is at the core of Boeing’s digital transformation. The company is at the start of its journey with many instances of pathfinders and prototypes to guide the way. The initiative is called 2nd Century Enterprise Systems and seeks to transform Boeing through enabling direct digital innovation.

PDF Association: For Boeing, is it typical that the endpoint of “transformation” involves a rendering? Or, is it more typical that the end result is something that’s not about rendering, such as a database application?

Kenny Swope: When we talk about the information that runs the business, it is used in both human and machine readable components. Both will continue to exist in the future. Indeed the database lies at the center of both lines of thought. Boeing’s information is being managed and organized with an eye toward AI and machine learning with both structured and unstructured data. Rendering, when called upon, will be done at point of use while maintain an open and exposed data set for additional opportunities.

PDF Association: What is the most valuable aspect of PDF from Boeing’s point of view?

Kenny Swope: PDF is a pervasive element of Boeing’s operations in daily business and a ubiquitous digital product from the office to the factory floor. To that end, the ease of distribution, and the level of support for anyone to be able to open and view the documents is an enabler to providing more value at a lower cost internal to the organization and across the supply chain. In addition the ability to archive and retrieve documents over long time horizons is critical to support records retention requirements in aerospace.

PDF Association: What is the role of PDF as it transitions from a document based enterprise to a model based enterprise?

Kenny Swope: The increasing richness of PDF capabilities helps form a bridge from the model based world to the parts of the product life cycle that are still largely document based. Adding Javascript and 3D enable much richer data to be exchanged and the ubiquity of PDF ensure that it can be viewed almost everywhere. Attachments will be leveraged to provide human oriented as well as automation oriented information in a convenient package.

PDF Association: What’s the significance of 3D PDF in Boeing’s vision for content management over the next 10, 20, 50 and 100 years?

Kenny Swope: While 100 years is difficult to forecast, particularly with technology, the idea that technical data has to be packaged in a meaningful structure and maintained for the long term is certainly a requirement. Boeing supports the LOTAR initiative with this in mind. LOTAR stands for Long Term Archival and Retrieval and is focused on an international standards based approach to defining data independent of the application or technology that created it. Today, Boeing packages data using pdf and distributes both engineering design, manufacturing planning, and service documentation both 2D and 3D. The archive formats for pdf are particularly suited for this. Of course, the challenge is that archiving in the 3D space as there are standards yet to be agreed upon to address this.

PDF Association: Documentation and manufacturing are highly integrated processes for Boeing. One might think this implies that you can do it all with database entries. Is this true? Is the role of renderings increasing or decreasing?

Kenny Swope: Certainly, database connections are used extensively in today’s technology solutions. With more advances in manufacturing technology coupled with Internet of Things functionality, there will be an increasing need for these to connect directly. SMART manufacturing, a topic that is gaining momentum in ISO envisions a future where the connected device will be a critical enabler of the future. That said, anything the information is externalized from the system a rendering in some format is required. This coupled with an overall increase in data utilization for manufacturing will see both data and rendering increase.

PDF Association: Thanks, Kenny! We look forward to hearing your keynote address at the Electronic Document Conference!


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

PDF Association staff

The PDF Association is the meeting-place of the PDF industry. The staff of the PDF Association are dedicated to delivering the information, services and value the members have come to expect. Staff members of the PDF Association include: Duff Johnson (Executive Director) Thomas Zellmann (Managing Director) Matthias Wagner (Operations Director) Alexandra Oettler (Editor) Nicole Gauger (Editor)

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

PDF Association staff

The PDF Association is the meeting-place of the PDF industry. The staff of the PDF Association are dedicated to delivering …

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