Bell Helicopter Textron Transforms Business with Earned Value Management Approach
 
 

Bell Helicopter Textron Transforms Business with Earned Value Management Approach

Founded in 1935, Bell Helicopter has a long history in aviation. An industry leader with unmatched name recognition, the company—which built the first airplane to cross the sound barrier—has an even mix of commercial and military customers. Bell is also pioneering tilt rotor technology, a safer, faster aviation technology that enables an aircraft to take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane. The company has delivered more than 35,000 aircraft to customers around the world.

Despite its industry leadership, due to outdated and disparate back-office systems, Bell Helicopter was increasingly challenged to meet customer requirements. The situation was crystallized after a discouraging Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) audit that documented multiple deficiencies, resulting in a loss of market confidence in Bell Helicopter and, more tangibly, in a direct monetary hit in the form of contract withholdings.

As an industry-leading producer of helicopters, Bell Helicopter has many government and military customers and must meet rigorous federal procurement standards. Its commercial customers also demand high quality and strict delivery expectations. As such, effective project management for the company’s various design and development projects is a vital component in meeting customer requirements and expectations.

Bell Helicopter needed to undertake a complete transformation of its project management processes, an initiative that would require robust project management software. After careful evaluation, Bell Helicopter selected Oracle’s Primavera applications. With the help of Primavera and a significant culture shift to focus on earned value management (EVM), Bell Helicopter has significantly improved its performance. In 2009, DCMA returned for an audit and found Bell Helicopter to be compliant in all 32 evaluation areas, which placed the organization among only three other companies worldwide to achieve that level of proficiency. This achievement has restored customer confidence in Bell Helicopter and also enabled the company to recapture previously withheld payments.

“We have come a long way in improving our business. Implementing Oracle’s Primavera applications was a big step in the right direction. Oracle has helped us restore customer confidence in Bell Helicopter,” said Yancy Qualls, manager, Integrated Program Scheduling, Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.

 
Unifying Costing and Scheduling

A word from Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.

  • “With the help of Oracle’s Primavera, we have taken earned value management from something we did on the side because we had to and made it a key part of our business.” – Yancy Qualls, Manager, Integrated Program Scheduling, Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.

Oracle’s Primavera P6 Enterprise Project Portfolio Management and Primavera Earned Value Management have helped Bell Helicopter to unify its cost and scheduling data and support EVM initiatives.

Previously, Bell Helicopter maintained its cost and scheduling data in numerous disparate, homegrown costing systems and an outdated Microsoft Projects scheduling system. If more than one scheduler wanted to work on a project at the same time, they had to create multiple schedule files. Also, there was no integration between cost and scheduling or among contracts, limiting visibility.

With as many as 150 concurrent projects and thousands of schedule lines in progress at any given time, Bell Helicopter’s previous system was simply not sustainable and had resulted in users operating in numerous shadow systems and spreadsheets.
With Primavera applications, Bell Helicopter can ensure its cost and schedule data are always aligned. Users can also collaborate via Primavera’s intuitive applications and link between contracts, ensuring that they are operating on the most up-to-date data. Bell Helicopter’s ability to conduct critical path analysis has significantly improved with Primavera’s automated features. Additionally, the Primavera applications can be integrated with third-party systems, enabling Bell Helicopter to interface with SAP and other financial systems.

In addition, Primavera provides a critical path through multiple linked projects to help give project managers the full picture on commercial accounts and better communicate project status to customers.

Another problem Bell Helicopter had faced was the lack of support for EVM—widely-regarded as a vital process for evaluating progress objectively. However, EVM was not a priority at Bell Helicopter prior to the business transformation.

“Many users did just enough to get by and say they were doing EVM, but then went back to their old habits,” Qualls said. “With the help of Primavera, we have taken EVM from something we did on the side because we had to and made it a key part of our business.”

 
Integrating Cost and Schedule Risk Assessment

 
Documenting Processes and Delivering Reports

 
 

 
 

Challenges

  • Improve process to identify cost reduction initiatives
  • Eliminate late projects, budget overruns, and other project status surprises by improving visibility into aviation project management
  • Enable the company to accurately forecast project costs and completion dates
  • Enhance reporting capabilities for individual aviation projects and across all active business
  • Reduce compliance violations by implementing a system to manage external compliance initiatives

Solutions

  • Helped restore the company to U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Contract Management Agency compliance
  • Unified cost and scheduling data to ensure more effective project management
  • Helped migrate to an earned value management approach
  • Regained EVM certification for military aviation customers
  • Created a single version of the truth for project schedule information
  • Integrated cost and scheduling information to improve aviation project management
  • Enabled the company to run cost/schedule reports for helicopter and airplane customers in a timely manner

Why Oracle

Bell Helicopter needed software that was user friendly because user buy-in was essential. Second, it wanted solutions that integrated seamlessly with each other and provided timely, actionable data. Relatively easy integration with third-party systems was also vital. At the same time, the volume and size of Bell Helicopter’s projects required a robust solution. Perhaps most importantly, the system needed to provide the data required for Bell Helicopter to comply with the federal regulations that apply to its military and government contracts. Oracle’s Primavera applications met all of these needs.

“After an exhaustive evaluation process, we felt that the Primavera applications were the best choice to meet all of our business needs,” Qualls said.

Implementation Process

Once Bell Helicopter made the decision to transform its project management approach, it realized that the right choice in software was critical. The company embarked on a year-long process of evaluating all of the products on the market and attending industry conferences. After considering other products including Artemis, Open Plan, MPM, and Dekker Trakker, Bell Helicopter selected Primavera. It then implemented Primavera andmigrated existing project data.

Advice from Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. 

  • Ease into your use of Primavera applications. Once you get to a point where the basics become second nature, then add all the bells and whistles over time.
  • Make process documentation a priority. Since there are so many options and customizable features within Primavera, if you leave it uncontrolled, everyone will find their own way of doing things. Defining and documenting standardized processes will help mitigate this problem.
  • Before you implement, make sure the data you are bringing in is accurate and complete. Any clean up you can do on the front end will pay big dividends down the road.
  • Know software’s limits. Fancy new tools won’t solve all your problems and bad habits; culture changes are necessary too.

Partner

Pinnacle Management Systems Inc. worked with Bell Helicopter Textron to implement the Primavera applications, integrating the solution with multiple financial, production management, and manufacturing systems. Pinnacle also built custom modules addressing budget changes requests and risk management.