Airbus maps out its strategy for long-term industry leadership

Airbus will continue as an industry-leading aircraft manufacturer by focusing on four key pillars for its future evolution: integration, internationalisation, innovation and the empowerment of its employees.

14 July 2008

This was the message of Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders, who spoke to international journalists at the opening of this week’s 2008 Farnborough Airshow. 

Enders said these four elements are key to the implementation of Airbus’ new business model, as it transitions from a long-time concentration on aircraft final assembly and production of components/subassemblies to a new emphasis on being a programme architect, integrator and the owner of core technologies for its products. 

This transition will be supported by the first pillar – a further integration of Airbus as an operating entity – on which major progress has been made during the past several years. A major step in the process occurred during 2001, when the four national entities that composed the Airbus consortium transferred their Airbus-related assets into a single company. 

“Airbus had been characterized by strong ‘silos’ that divided us nationally and functionally,” Enders said. “While we’ve made significant progress forward since 2001, the integration is not yet over. Our focus now is on a thorough restructuring in the manufacturing, engineering and procurement sectors.” 

Increased internationalisation also is an important path forward for Airbus, and this will be accomplished through a more global production network and broader international outsourcing. From the production standpoint, Airbus’ traditional European concentration has been opened to an industrial set-up that now reaches into Asia, North America and other areas. This includes a new regional centre in China (for final assembly of A320 Family aircraft) and the future U.S. site in Mobile, Alabama (for assembly of the A330-based U.S. Air Force aerial tankers and civilian A330-200F freighters). 

“Once these regional centres become operational, they will open even more possibilities for internationalisation through the further sourcing in these areas,” Enders explained. 

Airbus’ commercial success has been based in large part on its innovation in products and technology, with a major emphasis continuing on this key pillar during the coming years. According to Enders, an important development within Airbus has been the creation of centres of excellence and competence. They are backed by a highly capable research and technology structure, which benefits from the company’s increased integration of its functions and operations. 

“The ability to innovate does not always depend on how much money you spend,” Enders said. “We have found tremendous opportunities within Airbus to do more with less if we thoroughly integrate the company – ending the duplication of research and technology in two or three of our home countries.” 

The fourth pillar for Airbus’ future evolution is empowerment of people, drawing from the resources of its talented and multi-cultural base of employees. “We have a lot of technical and entrepreneurial talent in our company, but in recent years we’ve been exercising tight control as we faced some key challenges,” Enders stated. “This control was necessary, but we do believe that both accountability and freedom should be exercised to obtain the best from our people.”

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