Document Type

Closed Project

Publication Date

Fall 2009


Tim Anderson

Course Title

Project Management

Course Number

ETM 545


The 787 Dreamliner aircraft project required not only the application and integration of new construction materials, it also required new project management techniques for Boeing. By outsourcing most of the aircraft fabrication, Boeing’s primary role changed from designer and manufacturer to system integrator. Hindsight shows that more preparation and planning was needed for this transition. This case study review of the Boeing Dreamliner examines the project management techniques actually employed during the initiation and execution phases of the project. Techniques evolved from the start of the project to what is used currently. Best practices and recommendations for how a large-scale outsourced project could be managed are described. During the initiation phase, Boeing decided to outsource both design and manufacturing. Outsourcing core competencies is a risk to the main contractor’s design and manufacturing edge. The authors recommend selecting those subcontractors with a five step plan, based on selection criteria and culminating with clearly defined expectations. Boeing’s selection was strongly based on cost and market access, and the subcontractor understanding of work expectations initially differed from Boeing’s. It is important to work closely with subcontractors when advanced technology and key components are at stake. Boeing is doing this now, more effectively than at the start. Regular monitoring and control has improved as the project has progressed. Finally, delays and issues show after the fact that Boeing’s early work would have benefited from more robust risk management methods. Risk management techniques are discussed as are improvements Boeing has implemented currently.


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