Airbus restructures A380 production process in bid to catch up

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Airbus is undertaking a major short-term reorganisation of the A380 build process as it works to quickly transition to serial production and ramp up output.

Mario Heinen, who is moving from his old role as A380 programme manager to head the airframer's fuselage and cabin centre of excellence, says that with Airbus urgently needing to cease "out-of-sequence" equipping and wiring work at the Toulouse final assembly line "we played a trick with the production process".

a380-prod-route.

The revised production effort was explained to Flight International during the Emirates A380 delivery event at Airbus's Hamburg Finkenwerder plant by Heinen and Tom Williams, who is executive vice-president programmes. Williams says that the interim process has already begun and involves empty Section 13 (forward fuselage) shells being shipped from Finkenwerder after structural assembly to the St Nazaire plant in France where they are joined to fully stuffed nose sections. "They are then shipped back to Hamburg for equipping," says Williams.

emirates a380 
 © H.Gousse/Airbus

Once the wiring installation is completed the section then makes another sea journey, this time to Bordeaux, for transport by barge/road to the Toulouse final assembly line. Previously, the mated sections were being moved from St Nazaire to the Toulouse assembly line, where out-of-sequence equipping has been undertaken by seconded German staff.

Heinen says that the new interim process is "a smart move to catch up time and start to get full equipping under way in Hamburg". He says that "before we start wiring sections we need all the drawings completed which have a certain lead time".

The revised process enables structural assembly to be progressed before the completion of the wiring plan and avoids having sections waiting around for the drawings, he adds.

It is likely to continue to mid-2009, when it should switch to the original series production plan, where fully wired and plumbed Section 13s arrive in St Nazaire to be joined to nose sections and then shipped directly to the final assembly line. Heinen expects around 18 aircraft will be completed using the interim process.