Document Type

Closed Project

Publication Date

Spring 2001


Dundar Kocaoglu

Course Title

Project Management in Engineering and Technology

Course Number

EMGT 545/645


Project management, Engineering -- Management, Boeing Company -- Management, Boeing 777 (Jet transport) -- Design and construction -- Management


Incorporated under the name of Pacific Aero Products in 1916, Boeing changed its name to Boeing Aircraft Company in 1917 when it build its first airplane – the B&W trainer. From the 1920s until the 1980s Boeing corporate development was strongly tied to its success in bidding for, winning and successfully executing U.S. Government contracts. That however does not understate Boeing’s being an established player in the commercial aircraft manufacturing. It has been building commercial aircraft by using the conventional product development methods established since the Second World War. Although the company had come a long way both in term of technology and project management techniques, the change in governmental focus, external non-US competition and a realization of changing times in the 1980s demanded Boeing to rethink its philosophy of accomplishing its mission of being the number one aerospace company in the world and number one among the premier industrial concerns in terms of quality, profitability and growth.

The Boeing 777 thus originated in the late 1980s and the program to develop the aircraft was launched in October 1990 for completion in April 1995. The four years thought process between 1986 and 1990 was an effort worth emulating. Boeing had felt the pulse of the market and undergone extensive soul searching. It had realized that while the old management methods were successful in their times, new methods were required for success in the future. Thus the 777 program has been more than just another program for Boeing Commercial Airplane Group. It has been an entirely new concept of designing, developing and manufacturing a commercial transport. It has had a significant impact on Boeing, its suppliers and customers, the aviation industry in particular and the field of project management in general.

The project management of the Boeing 777 aircraft was handled in a unique way as compared to the conventional techniques employed during such developments. The changes were very dramatic and encompassed many areas, including technical, organizational and administrative. Boeing is touting the 777 as a new process not just a new product, a process that seem to have turned around the whole company. Although the technical innovations were numerous, what made the 777 project unique, besides being the largest privately funded program in the world excepting the tunnel under the English Channel, were the other changes Boeing instituted for this design/build effort. It was the first 100% digitally designed and pre-assembled airplane made by Boeing. Concurrent engineering, the concept of “Working Together”, was an integral part of the new philosophy and nearly 240 Design/Build teams were used throughout the process. The philosophy dictated a change in the mindset of the brilliant engineers and technicians from one of “I can do it alone” to “We can do it together”. Further more the whole process integrated the customers and the suppliers from the very beginning of the Project. Accommodating the desires of management, design engineers, suppliers, and customers at the same time and carrying them along from start to a successful end was indeed a Project Management feat that desires a closer look. A testimony of the success of the project management methodology is the fact that many of the project management techniques employed in this program have been adopted by another mega project — The International Space Station.


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