Business Case Study: South Carolina’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Last month, Boeing’s South Carolina plant delivered its first 787-9 Dreamliner. The story was covered by a number of regional business publications generating considerable buzz. While the plane was Boeing’s 250th Dreamliner delivered since the program began, South Carolina’s delivery marked the beginning of an assembly that is projected to make 84 Dreamliners a year by 2020.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a commercial plane with variants that seat between 242 and 335 passengers in typical 3-class seating configurations. In addition to its composite material construction, one of the plane’s most notable distinctions is its fuel efficiency, allowing the Dreamliner to fly greater distances at the same cost. Designed to be 20 percent more fuel efficient than most commercial planes of its size, the Dreamliner yields considerable cost savings for the plane’s airline carriers.

Spurred by declining sales of its existing midsize carriers, the original concept for  the 787 was born out of Boeing’s study of replacement aircraft programs. Gauging interest among airlines, Boeing discovered special enthusiasm for fuel-efficient technology. Acting on this customer knowledge, Boeing embarked on a long journey leading to Dreamliner’s first delivery to All Nippon Airways in 2011.

Striving to maintain market competitiveness, a number of leading airlines made large orders of the new plane, many of which are pending fulfillment today. All Nippon Airways, AerCap, Etihad Airways and United Airlines are some of the largest Dreamliner buyers. In the U.S., United Airlines and American Airlines were the first two carriers to receive the new 787.

Jeff Smisek, United Airlines Chairman of the Board, President and CEO, said, “We are proud to be the first airline in North America to fly this revolutionary aircraft. With flyer-friendly features and industry-leading fuel efficiency, the 787 is giving us even more flexibility and range to expand our global route network.”

While the 787 suffered many delays in production caused by shifts in supply chain strategy, according to Boeing, “approximately sixty customers from six continents of the world have placed orders for more than 1,000 airplanes valued at more than $250 billion, making it the most successful twin-aisle launch of a new commercial airplane in Boeing’s history.”

For Limestone students pursuing a bachelor’s in business administration, the Boeing Dreamliner is a valuable business case study showing innovative product development interrupted by unconventional supply chain management. Principles behind the issues and successes of this case are covered in Limestone business BA 300 Principles of Management. This course examines the function of management (planning, directing, controlling, organizing, staffing, communicating, and decision-making) from a balanced perspective.