Our mission: to foster craftsmanship by streamlining communication at the Boeing Renton factory

The CMU MHCI capstone project is an eight-month-long project, starting with user research, and ending with a high-fidelity prototype. My team was sponsored by The Boeing Company, an airline design and manufacturing company based in the Seattle area.

The Boeing Renton factory produces the Boeing 737, the best-selling plane in the history of aviation, which makes up sixty percent of Boeing’s commercial revenue. The planes have minimal variations between them, allowing Renton to produce them fairly quickly: one or two planes leave the line every day, after taking only ten days to build. The factory has high levels of aural, visual, and informational noise. Our goal for the project was to develop an improved way for mechanics and inspectors to interact with the large amounts of information they receive and send.

737Line

Process

Our team had floor access at the Renton factory, where we observed the factory employees in context. The employees were generous with their time, showing us how they use their tools, interact with their various computer systems, and communicate with each other. They also shared their frustrations with us, which helped us to identify several areas for possible improvement.

workshop

Back at CMU, we consolidated our data using affinity diagramming, flow diagrams, and “five whys” activities. Once the data was organized, we identified three key findings from our research, and set out to develop a way to address these issues. Several of our findings were also supported by research into analogous domains, such as auto maintenance and surgical procedures. We performed visioning activities to brainstorm ideas, and then moved on to bodystorming, low-fidelity prototyping, and a final high-fidelity prototype built in Axure.

mind mapping

Project outcomes

In August, we delivered our final high-fidelity prototype to Boeing, where it was well-received by factory floor employees, engineering, and management. For more details of our project, please visit the project website.

Due to the confidential nature of the project, I am unable to share our findings from the factory or our prototype.