Brought "Lean Manufacturing" To Company
Boeing exec Jim Blue's "lean manufacturing" initiatives
transformed Boeing's production methods over the course of two
Blue died Wednesday at 78 from complications related to
diabetes, reported the Seattle Times.
He was recognized for driving quality improvements and
cost-saving efficiencies at the company's highest levels, including
sending top management to Japan to study production philosophies
and Toyota assembly lines.
He was also instrumental in bringing the Concorde to Seattle's
Museum of Flight.
Alan Mulally, former chief executive of Boeing Commercial
Airplanes and now CEO at Ford Motor, called Blue "a mentor and
"Many of us will always have his customer-focus and
working-together and continuous-improvement attitude, his
leadership by example, and his positive spirit, with us forever,"
Said Bob Bogash, friend and Boeing colleague, "He was a
hard-charging, pedal-to-the-metal kind of guy, very much an
Boeing engineer Joe Sutter,
who led the 747 jumbo-jet program, described Blue as "very, very
"He was irreverent toward all the rules and conditions at
Boeing. He irritated the top management at times," Sutter said.
"But he was one hell of a Boeing employee."
Born in 1929 in Wichita, KS, Blue's father had worked at Boeing
there, in a warehouse job and managing airplane parts. During
summers in high school, Blue worked in the Boeing warehouse,
Professionally, Blue worked in management on the 747 jumbo-jet
program, later managing the organization providing after-sales
support to airlines.
In the mid-'80s, when airlines raised issues of airplane-quality
to Boeing's president, Blue was appointed head of quality
Blue developed seminars in Japan for all Boeing executives, and
although the company was slow to adapt to those methods, by the
1990s leadership was committed, fully embracing the quality and
efficiency improvements now known as "lean."
The change streamlined Boeing's production, dramatically shrunk
its assembly plants, and increased outsourcing of lower-level parts
"Whatever steps Boeing has taken [toward Lean methods] ... can
be attributed directly to Blue," Bogash said.
Blue retired in 1993. He is survived by his wife of 58 years,
three children, eight grandchildren and seven