Airbus Seeks Innovation, Supply Chain Support for Production Increase

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | January 13, 2016
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[Avionics Today 01-12-2016] Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier discussed some ambitious plans for the French airframe manufacturer moving forward in 2016 and beyond at the company’s annual press conference Tuesday. Among them, Airbus has set a delivery target of 650 aircraft and staggered production rate increases for the A320, which will be fueled by reliance on a strong global supply chain and an innovative use of digital technologies.
Airbus annual press conference. Photo: Airbus. 
In 2015, Airbus increased its overall aircraft order backlog to a value of nearly $1 trillion with 6,787 airplanes on back order, which justifies the need to increase its production rates — especially on the A320 — as orders for the both the Current Engine Option (CEO) and New Engine Option (NEO) A320s account for 5,550 total orders. Out of that number 1,000 are for A320ceos, with the remaining orders for the new engine options, with Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100GG-JM and CFM International’s LEAP-1A engines. 
To address the growing backlog, Airbus is going to need a strong commitment to quality and efficiency in meeting delivery schedules from its global supply chain as well as a new focus on introducing digital tools to increase production efficiency, Bregier said.
The goal for Airbus is to achieve a production rate of 50 A320s per month with by early 2017, before eventually reaching 60 per month by mid 2019. 
“Tthis is our responsibility to a certain limit. We face partners and we face suppliers who listen to us, who don’t cheat us, and will do their job. This is the case in 99 percent, probably, of the suppliers. Last year it was clearly with Zodiac, we suffered a lot with Zodiac, and I expect that they will manage to do much better this year, especially as a lot of A350 deliveries are directly linked to their performance on lavatories and seats,” said Bregier.
In November, Zodiac Aerospace released a statement on its results for fiscal year 2014/2015 noting that it had launched a transformation plan known as Focus and has implemented a new organization to prevent the “seats crisis” from occurring again in the future. The crisis was the result of production delays associated with problems obtaining certification for some of its seats. Delays were also the result of Zodiac’s inability to keep up with increased demand for seats from new orders.
Bregier said he specifically removed Zodiac as a supplier for cabin elements on the A330neo program so that the company can focus on fixing the production problems that lead to a delay in A350 deliveries last year. 
“I don’t want them to fail this year because my future with the A350 is linked to Zodiac, which by the way is a good cabin element supplier. So they got a wake up call, which has been materialized: I de-selected them on the A330neo cabin elements. I believe, however, they can do better, but they’re not yet out of the ditch,” he said.
On applying digital technology for more efficiency, innovation and speeding up the transformation of new ideas into valuable business propositions, Bregier told reporters that Airbus began launching several pilot/prototype co-innovation projects with certain airline customers last year. Airbus is also working on producing closer relationships with the “active and creative world” of Silicon Valley in the United States to increase innovation.

“What we do with the amount of data that is collected by us and the airlines, we have started some prototypes, and some pilots with close customers of Airbus to see how we can get a better understanding of our aircraft and know the limits. The engine guys do it already a lot, so it can be done at aircraft level,” said Bregier. 

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