Airbus and partners gear up for A350 production

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Airbus and its programme partners across Europe and the USA are gearing up for the launch of A350 XWB production with the construction of factories or extensions to existing infrastructure.

The revised production flow introduced for the A350 is designed to streamline final assembly and will require subassemblies to arrive by Beluga in Toulouse in a more advanced state of build than with current programmes.

The bulk of A350 production will be undertaken by Airbus's European plants - including the factories it has hived off into the French and German standalone divisions Aerolia and Premium Aerotech, respectively. Construction began in January of the A350's flagship final assembly line adjacent to the A330/A340 complex in Toulouse, and the building of new factories for the twinjet is under way elsewhere in France, in Germany, Spain and the UK, as well as in the USA.

"Through improved processes, a more lean approach and better overlap, the objective is a to achieve a 30% reduction in lead time at the final assembly line [FAL] - and 'pre-FAL' - in terms of subassembly equipping," says Philippe Launay, who is Airbus's head of A350 industrial programme management.

He says that the general policy for the A350 is that subassemblies will be delivered to the final assembly line with "a higher level of integration in terms of equipment" than current Airbus programmes.

"The central plateau arrangement means that all manufacturing and engineering competence is in one location -- even our suppliers," says Launay. "This allows us to revisit our processes and achieve a leaner, more efficient process to deliver the shorter lead-time."

The forward fuselage assembly process is an example of how the co-location of suppliers works - US partner Spirit AeroSystems will fabricate the composite fuselage shells at its new factory in Kinston, North Carolina, then ship them to its own new dedicated plant to be adjacent to Airbus facilities at St Nazaire, where the shells will be completed and then be delivered for assembly by Airbus. "Spirit will finalise the location of its St Nazaire building in the second quarter," says Launay.