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Archive for Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Mulally known for success, challenging status quo

September 6, 2006

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— Ford Motor Co.'s new president and chief executive officer, Alan Mulally, is credited with engineering a remarkable recovery at Boeing's commercial airplane division since terrorist attacks in 2001 sent the U.S. airline industry into a tailspin.

The 61-year-old executive vice president of the Boeing Co. and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes was responsible for all of the company's commercial airplane programs and related services, which in 2005 generated record orders for new business and sales of more than $22.6 billion.

Under his leadership, Boeing's reputation has regained altitude that it lost after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. While Boeing's board passed him over for the top job at the company last year, his commercial unit more than tripled orders last year from the year before, thanks to the introduction of its new, more fuel-efficient airliners.

Mulally is known as a tactful manager who isn't afraid to challenge the way things have always been done, analysts said.

He is credited with focusing on cutting waste and streamlining Boeing's antiquated and inefficient airplane manufacturing process following massive cuts to the work force and production shortly after 9-11.

"I think that what you will find in Alan Mulally is a person who listens very closely to his customer," said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer and aerospace expert at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.

In the case of Boeing's latest product, the 787 aircraft, Mulally listened to financially struggling airlines - headed into an era of volatile oil prices - to make the aircraft more fuel-efficient than its competitors.

For passengers, the seats and aisles are wider, and the windows are bigger.

"Mulally is exactly the kind of person Ford needs," said Jim Hall, vice president for industry analysis at AutoPacific. "He's on the executive side, not product development, so his knowledge of cars is less important than a knowledge of manufacturing and organization."

Mulally was the boss for Boeing's innovative 777 airliner program, Hall said.

"They changed the way the company develops a new plane, and it saved tens - probably hundreds - of millions of dollars," he said.

Mulally questions assumptions, analysts said.

"When executives said they'd always done things one way, he told them that didn't matter: Do it the best way," Hall said. "He knows how to get people to quit doing things just because that's how they've always done them. Ford can use that."

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