In regards to products, project managers are under ever-mounting pressure to create valued networks between suppliers, customers and partners. This is due to the fact most products now have shorter lifecycles and faster time-to-market. With our growing reliance on consumerism, product projects need to be completed on time and on budget to meet supplier, customer and partner demands.
More complex products require even more attention due to their high demand for collaboration. Project managers must work in cross-company, cross-industry and cross-country networks. With teams all working to create the same product, whilst also being geographically dispersed, this presents many challenges for project managers.
Complex products by definition are often large or highly technical products that require the input of many different teams and industries throughout the development process. The production of aircraft, ships, spaceflight or other scientific technology is usually encompassed in this term.
A perfect example of a complex product needing inter-disciplinary collaboration is the production of the Airbus A380. This is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner manufactured by Airbus. It is currently the world’s largest passenger airliner, and many airports have upgraded their facilities in order to accommodate it. The A380 made its first flight on 27th April 2005 and entered commercial service in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines.
The high demand of the A380, with 50 firm orders and six launch customers, meant a lot of pressure on project managers to meet targets. The complexity of the A380’s production called for collaboration between a number of different companies. Major structural sections of the A380 are built in France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The large size of the sections meant that traditional transportation methods could not be used. This, therefore, meant the surface movement of the components had to take a complex route. This included the construction of a fleet of ships and barges, the construction of port facilities and the development of new and modified roads to accommodate oversized road convoys. The transportation of complex products may be key to their completion, adding a new dimension to the intricacy of project management roles.
The varying components of the A380 were provided by suppliers from around the world. Four of the largest contributors, were Rolls-Royce, Safran, United Technologies and General Electric. Collaboration with these major companies will have required continual communication and management.
Post-completion, this intensely complex product was considered a success. By July 2010, the 31 A380s then in service had transported 6 million passengers on 17,000 flights totalling over 156,000 hours between 20 international destinations. By June 2014, more than 55 million passengers are said to have flown in an A380.
The production of these projects is a testimony to multi-skilled project managers and their use of collaboration and communication methods. Without the efficient skills to unite numerous industries and companies, the completion of complex product projects, such as the A380, would be unachievable.