A trans-national approach
Airbus is a truly global enterprise, with facilities around the world and a supply chain that includes more than 2,000 primary contractors in over 20 countries. Leveraging its multicultural teams, Airbus is perfectly placed to understand the needs of customers, suppliers and industry stakeholders in every corner of the globe.
During an aircraft’s development phase, Airbus’ own production network is fully involved to ensure that manufacturing processes are validated and assembly procedures are confirmed. This production network uses a series of Airbus Centres of Excellence to simplify and unify the design and production management processes. The Centres are based around expertise in four key production areas: fuselage and cabin; wing and pylon; aft fuselage and empennage; and aerostructures.
Beginning with the A300/A310, primary production responsibilities were distributed throughout Europe based on capabilities within the Airbus network. France’s expertise in systems integration, instrumentation and human-machine interface resulted in the country’s responsibility for the forward fuselage, cockpit and flight control systems, and it also produced the lower centre fuselage section.
The British were well-known for their capabilities in wing design, therefore were given duties for the new jetliner’s wings. Germany’s strength in manufacturing and processes resulted in the company’s assignment to build the forward and rear fuselage “barrel” sections, along with the upper portion of the centre fuselage, while Spain was chosen for the horizontal tailplane.
The emphasis on cooperation continued with each Airbus jetliner programme that followed, from the best-selling A320 Family to the company’s 21st century flagship A380 and the next-generation A350 XWB. Throughout the product line’s development, responsibilities within Airbus’ own production network have evolved to reflect the evolution of technology and materials, manufacturing processes and the expertise of each Airbus-operated facility.
With the A350 XWB, Airbus has implemented an extended enterprise approach to partnerships with its suppliers, which enabled all key parties to be “on board” up to one year earlier than with previous programmes. In addition, the use of common processes, methods and tools – including a single integrated 3D digital mock up and unified planning tool – are resulting in more efficient information sharing, allowing Airbus and suppliers to work effectively in parallel. The A350 XWB workforce at Airbus is expected to be around 12,000 globally at peak production.
As Airbus moves forward, the company is building a global network of talent that will continue the work of its predecessors and contribute to the development of new innovations that will become tomorrow’s standards.
In recent years, Airbus has begun expanding its existing research and technology teams with the growing number of young engineering graduates trained in emerging countries.