Airbus pulls the A350 XWB Andon Cord

In the dogma associated with lean manufacturing, the Andon Cord holds particularly venerable position in industrial circles. The Andon Cord, coined by Japanese car maker Toyota, places the power of stopping a production line in the hands of each and every employee.

According to Toyota, pulling the cord is done when “a problem on any vehicle is spotted…Only when the problem is resolved is the line restarted. This process involves every team member in monitoring and checking the quality of every car produced”

Airbus, in essence, has pulled its own Andon Cord by pushing back the start of final assembly of MSN001, the first A350-900, to the end of 2011.

Seeking to avoid the production debacle that delayed the A380 two years, chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier says: “when you’re not ready, you don’t move from one step to another.”

According to reporting by Flightglobal, Bregier added that no milestones would commence before maturity. In an aerospace world fixated on concurrent testing and production, such a statement echoes a different approach than we’ve seen in recent years from many manufacturers, including Boeing and the 787.
A similar Andon-style Cord has been installed on both the Boeing 737 and 777 moving lines for exactly the same purpose. While the moving line instills urgency in the fix, the act of stopping an assembly line is a daunting action, and it places the responsibility for quality at all levels.

In the early years of A380 and 787 production, both Boeing and Airbus found themselves mired in traveled work, the antithesis of lean manufacturing, that required jobs to be performed out of their originally intended assembly sequence while the design was still in flux.

Boeing in particular still struggles with the rework required to prepare 787s for delivery as it aims for a third quarter certification, though the airframer keeps pulling the cord – halting deliveries to final assembly. Even as it heads well past two dozen airframes still performing rework, have the stops accomplished their stated objective?

Airbus may push back final assembly further and first delivery may slip into 2014 as many expect it to, but Bregier bluntly identifies the choice at hand: “Perhaps it’s a bit too demanding but, if we do that, it will be muchsimpler, and I prefer to take a couple more months at this stage toavoid potentially big problems.”

2 Responses to Airbus pulls the A350 XWB Andon Cord

  1. Andon January 20, 2011 at 1:23 am #

    Up until recently, I’ve been a loyal reader and fan of Jon Ostrower’s blog. While he’s always provided unbiased analysis and fact-based stories, it has become clear that someone needs to pull the andon cord on Jon. His recent article on 787 pricing has no basis in fact and I am afraid is his selfish attempt at trying to create a name for himself. Shame on you, Jon. You need to take a step back and assess who you are as a journalist and how you can help move the industry forward as you’ve done in the past.

  2. Jon Ostrower February 26, 2011 at 12:20 am #

    Dear Andon,

    Apologies for the belated posting of your comment, our overactive spam filter swallowed it whole before any human eyes were laid on it. I hope we can discuss your concerns directly, so please feel free to contact me at Flightblogger(at) gmail.


    Jon Ostrower