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Critical Analysis of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner Case

You should by now have a good understanding of the unique characteristics of international projects. You should have a firm grasp of the way in which uncertainty impacts on a number of project management activities, in particular how the culture of international stakeholders affects the planning and execution of projects. Your task now is to analyse and critique an international project in terms of how well it is being conducted, the problem areas and possible improvements.

You have been appointed by Murasaki Aircraft Corporation (MAC), a relatively new aircraft manufacturer in Japan, as the Project Director. MAC’s shareholders include parent company Murasaki Heavy Industries (MHI) 64%, Toyota Motor Corporation (10%) and Mitsubishi Corporation (10%) and Sumitomo Corporation and Mitsui & Co with minor shares. MAC is only producing Regional Jets and has no ambition to compete with Boeing and Airbus, especially since MAC is manufacturing Boeing’s 787’s wings. However, the CEO, Lisanne wishes to grow the company to the next level by entering into the medium size passenger jet market directly competing with the Big Two. She wishes to use Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner lightweight construction technology to reduce the weight of the aircraft and the partnering strategy (international consortium approach) that Boeing and Airbus employed for the 787 and A380 aircraft respectively to spread the manufacturing risks – although the partnering proved to be problematic for both companies.

In order to develop the concept, Lisanne has asked you to collect as much information on the 787 and A380 projects as possible and determine what they did well and in which areas they should have paid more attention, and perhaps performed better, in order to avoid the problems that plagued their projects. Lisanne needs the information to determine how feasible her concept is from a project perspective and to ultimately build a business case to persuade the shareholders if the issues identified by you can be resolved. Read through the case study material carefully.

The scope of the task In effect, the CEO, Lisanne, is seeking from you: a ‘lessons learned’ brief of the two projects, and how these learnings can be adopted into MAC’s growth ambition project.

Firstly, you will need to critically examine what the two companies have done or may have done, at each phase of the project management cycle (initiation, planning, execution – including monitoring and control but ignoring closing) and how that led to the final outcome.

The outcome could be either positive results or negative results. As detailed information on the projects is ‘Commercial in Confidence’, it is highly unlikely that any company-originated documents would be available in the public domain.

You will need to rely on company media releases, news reports, and professional case studies for information. In some instances you will need to examine the outcome (e.g., inability to connect electric cablings between A380 aircraft modules) of the relevant project activities (e.g., engineering design) and make some assumptions as to what the companies might have done or not done in terms of following proper project management methodologies (e.g., quality plan …etc).

Focus on the international context whenever you need to. This is particularly important for the second part of this task.

You are working for a Japanese company, with a female CEO and your supply partners are from across the globe. What strategies are you going to recommend to your CEO to ensure MAC does not repeat Boeing’s and AirBus’ mistakes because of cultural differences and other issues that are unique to international projects?

The video on the AirBus A380 and 787 will provide a fair amount of information about the issues that both projects faced and should assist you with this task. Your report should be presented in an essay format. It needs to look and sound professional and to be suitable for presentation in a Business Development debate.

Critical Analysis of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner Case

The report aims in providing a list of suggestion to the Murasaki Aircraft Corporation (MAC) on basis of the mistakes and issues faced by Airbus A380 and The Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The essay investigates and collects information about both the case studies to analyze the aspects that could have been improved so it can be used as a lesson learnt for MAC. The examination of both the case has been undertaken as the CEO of MAC, Lisanne wishes to grow the company to the next level by entering into a medium size passenger jet marker (Clark 2019). Therefore, the issues and the manufacturing risks that can follow with this decision is needed to be identified so that those issues can be mitigated. The following paragraphs discusses the detailed lesson learnt from the Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A 380 case study. There were a number of issues linked with the Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380 that are discussed in the essay. The essay concludes with a detailed recommendation of the steps to be taken by MAC so that the issues faces in the two case studies are not repeated.

In this section of the essay, critical analysis of the Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380 case will be presented. This lesson learnt will help MAC to address the issues that can be faced while moving on to a new venture.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner case is related to development of an aircraft that was expected to change the dynamics of the aviation industry. The main issue that was observed in this particular innovation project was a delay of 14 months. The development of Bowing 787 promised to be the next evolution in flight technology (Nolan 2012). However, right from the introduction of the aircraft, the plane had faced certain crippling malfunctions. This indicate that the quality and safety of the aircraft was not properly accessed.

The 787 Dreamliner was mainly built for stimulating the revenue growth and market response of Boeing. However, several issues were identified with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The issues are indicated as follows-

  1. There was a huge schedule delay in delivery of the project due to certain incomplete wok on the software. The delay was so huge that the first flight of Boeing 787 was delayed (MarketLine Case Study. 2012).
  2. Certain problems were identified in the pre ground testing phase mainly because of the composite fuselage.
  3. Potential safety problems were identified in Boeing (Shenhar et al. 2016). The safety concern were considerably harder to address as the safety concerns that were identified in the Dreamliner was not a result of any specific design or a software issue.

The main issue that could be identified with the Dreamliner, apart from the schedule issue involves the safety issue (Elahi, Sheikhzadeh and Lamba 2014). As speculated earlier, the safety issues were not related to the plane’s batteries and instead, it is mostly related to the items that were left in the planes by workers. Those include metal shaving and other debris that were found in the wiring for flight controls (Denning 2013). It is a situation of negligence as there was high possibility that the shavings could pierce the wiring to cause some major problems.

Issues faced by the Dreamliner project

Therefore, the main problem related to the Dreamliner project is related to project management. Each phase of project lifecycle could have been managed in a different manner so that the issues can be avoided. In the planning phase a suitable and feasible project plan was needed to be developed so that the schedule delays in delivery of the project could have been avoided (The Boeing 787 Broken Dreams, 2019). The execution phase needed more appropriate supervision so that the safety issues could have been identified and mitigated. Lack of proper monitoring and control could be identified in the Dreamliner’s case that multiplied the existing problems.

Similar to the Dreamliner case, various schedule issues could be identified in Airbus A 380 case. The delivery of the project was two years behind the schedule. Apart from the schedule issue, various issues were identified in relation to the manufacturing of the Airbus A 380 (Dörfler & Baumann 2014). The wiring of the Airbus was not following the routing that was expected, that is through the fuselage and thus, when wiring of one part ended, it was not long enough to meet up the connectors of the next section. This indicates the presence of a faulty plan and the calculations were wrong. This was a serious issue as during the execution phase everything were needed to be ripped out to start from the scratch.

Apart from that, in autumn 2004, the assembly line managers had reported problems in the progress of the project. However, although the problems were identified in an earlier stage, the project team did not consider those issues significant enough to highlight it to the top management. This was the major issue that was identified in the execution phase of the project. A number of smaller problems in design and implementation lead to a cumulative problem, which Airbus did not acknowledge till six months of project execution (Dörfler and Baumann 2014.). This is another significant reason behind the delay in the Airbus project, which in turn was diminished and downplayed. Thus, it can be said that the issues faced by Airbus could have been avoided if the proper emphasis were given to appropriate planning and execution of the project. There were several issues with the design and the planning phase that was one significant reason behind the wiring problem that was faced. Along with that several issues were identified in the execution phase. The Airbus project as a whole failed to execute as per the plan leading to serious schedule issue. This is one of the primary reason behind A380 being considered to be the most complex commercial jet project (Avdzhieva et al. 2014). The failure of the Airbus A 380 project had a large impact on the company as well. The main reason behind the failure of A380 was the underestimated schedule and cost.

Project Management Issues in the Dreamliner Project

In the planning phase, no feasible plan was prepared and the schedule and the cost of the project was underestimated. Also, in the execution phase, with an aim of developing the largest commercial jet, the manufacturing process was further complicated resulting in increase in delay of the project. The unexpected delay in the execution of the project had incurred additional costs.

Airbus A 380 further failed because of failure of establishing an appropriate control over the requirements of the project (Simons 2014). An effective control and monitoring of the project increases the success rate of the project. Apart from that, a lack of communication among the project team members were identified during the execution of the project, which indicate that the issues persisting in the project were not communicated to the higher officials in a timely manner.

Analysis of the Dreamliner’s case and A380 case, helps in examining the feasibility of Lisanne’s concept of making use of the light weight technology employed for Boeing 787 and A 380.

On analyzing the cases of Boeing 787 and A 380, several areas could be identified that needs attention. Lissane’s concept can be termed as feasible only if the issues identified from both the cases are addressed.

As analyzed from the cases, both the project had issues with the plan. The plan developed were not technically feasible that lead to delay in both the project. Thus, MAC needs to research about the feasible time needed for execution and use of the similar technology to develop a feasible project plan (Williard et al. 2013). Along with that, it is recommended that experienced individuals are to be hired who will supervise the entire execution process, so that the chances of project failure is reduced.

Secondly, issues were identified in project monitoring and control. Mostly in A 380 project, lack of proper monitoring increased the complexity of the project leading to project failure. Thus Lissanne needs to invest of effective project monitoring and control to successfully execute the project.

The third issue that was highlighted involves the issue of communication gap among the team members and the higher officials, due to which the major issues persisting in those projects were not communicated. The project manager needs to establish effective communication among the team so that the issues are communicated to the higher officials. Communication gap tend to establish in international projects, which might be a result of presence of a cross cultural team.

Conclusion

The essay embarks in a critical analysis of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A 380 case, to identify the main issues that led to the failure of the project. Among the several issues, the most prominent issues that were common in both the case were the schedule issues, lack of effective monitoring and control and communication issues. MAC needs to address the identified issues and constraints to ascertain that their new venture is a success.

References

Avdzhieva, A., Manhart, A., Krupp, A., Brackmann, H., Mathews, J., Kamperis, S. and Nigam, N., 2014. Efficient airline boarding strategies on the Airbus A380. 6th OCCAM Graduate Modelling Camp, pp.2-18.

Clark, N. 2019, The Airbus saga: Crossed wires and a multibillion-euro delay - Business - International Herald Tribune. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/11/business/worldbusiness/11iht-airbus.3860198.html [Accessed 2 Nov. 2019].

Denning, S. 2013. What went wrong at boeing. Strategy & Leadership. 41(3): 36-41.

Dörfler, I. & Baumann, O. 2014. Learning from a Drastic Failure: The Case of the Airbus A380 Program. Industry and Innovation, 21(3): 197-214.

Dörfler, I. and Baumann, O., 2014. Learning from a drastic failure: the case of the Airbus A380 program. Industry and Innovation, 21(3), pp.197-214.

Elahi, E., Sheikhzadeh, M. and Lamba, N. 2014. An Integrated Outsourcing Framework: Analyzing Boeing's Outsourcing Program for Dreamliner (B787). Knowledge and Process Management. 21(1): 13–28

MarketLine Case Study. 2012. Boeing Case Study. The 787 Dreamliner. Accessed 22 February, 2016.

Nolan, R.L., 2012. Ubiquitous IT: The case of the Boeing 787 and implications for strategic IT research. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 21(2), pp.91-102.

Shenhar, A. J., Holzmann, V., Melamed, B. and Zhao, Y. 2016. The Challenge of Innovation in Highly Complex Projects: What Can We Learn from Boeing's Dreamliner Experience?. Project Management Journal. 47(2): 62–78.

Simons, G., 2014. The Airbus A380: A History. Pen and Sword.

The Boeing 787: Broken Dreams Al Jazeera Investigations. 2019. [video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvkEpstd9os&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 2 Nov. 2019].

Williard, N., He, W., Hendricks, C. and Pecht, M., 2013. Lessons learned from the 787 dreamliner issue on lithium-ion battery reliability. Energies, 6(9), pp.4682-4695.

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