Maria Angeles Marti Martinez is head of lean, as in 'lean manufacturing' at Airbus's Illescas composites plant outside Madrid, which designs and builds stabilisers, fuselage sections and skins
Tell us briefly about your job and the significance of the Ilescas plant.
I am in charge of implementing lean manufacturing at the plant. Lean is a production philosophy that started at the Toyota plant in Japan in the 1950s. It is a new way of working and a new culture of production processes is growing here in Illescas. Aeronautical companies need to be more competitive in existing markets, ensuring the highest quality of their products, delivering them on time, and at minimum cost. Lean is a very effective way to achieve this.
The Illescas plant is a centre of excellence in the manufacturing of composite materials. With more than 530 employees, it is a leader in the manufacturing of aeronautical parts made out of carbonfibre composites. It originally specialised in the manufacturing of the horizontal tailplane for all Airbus programmes. With the A380, there has been a significant advancement in technology and with the A350, we will start manufacturing wings and 360° parts in only one shot.
Martinez: comfortable in the male world of engineering
What did you do before this role?
I was a production manager, and led a team of over 70 people, including engineers and technical operators. Our team covered the second half of the production process, where all the parts for all the programmes are trimmed, inspected and delivered.
What qualifications did you need for this position?
I needed to be an engineer and have training and practical experience in the implementation of Lean. I had the opportunity to get a green belt training and a Master in Lean, and as a production manager, I did my best to put it into practice.
What personal qualities are needed to champion lean processes in a big company?
Motivation is key. It is also very important that you like to work with people in a team environment. Lean is a change of culture, bringing new ways of managing (at all levels), and where people (especially the operators) are the centre, the core. You need to be oriented into multifunctional teams and respect everyone's ideas, empowering people to work together for continuous improvement.
What challenges have you had to face as a woman in a male-dominated profession, and are things changing?
I have spent most of my life surrounded by men. Being an engineer, you enter into a male world as soon as you start university. I honestly think that as a woman in this field you have to demonstrate and prove yourself more than men in your career.
However, I never think about myself as "a woman" even if I am in a meeting room and where everybody else is male. I honestly don't even notice it. The world we live in now evaluates more and more people for their results, and there is less room for prejudices. And I think women will have a lot to say in the coming years and decades.
What are your ambitions for the future?
My main ambitions are to have the right balance between my family and my career, being able to enjoy my husband and kids and at the same time work with the same passion.
I am lucky to count on the support of my family in one side and on the other side be part of Airbus, a wonderful company that can open multiple options to grow in many directions.