Airbus plans to harness technology to upgrade its factories in a bid to produce aircraft up to 30 percent faster.
The European aerospace giant celebrates its 50th anniversary next week and has gone from a minor player to a major force since it when it entered a market in which American players commanded an 80 percent share.
It has just celebrated its 12,000th aircraft delivery and new chief executive Guillaume Faury has brought in a new team determined to further embrace technological innovation.
Faury told reporters at the Airbus Innovation Days that the manufacturer was lifting production to levels that would have seemed impossible a decade ago with deliveries in 2019 of 880-90 aircraft a 10 percent increase on last year’s record.
For single-aisle aircraft, the target was to be producing 60 aircraft a month by the middle of the year with plans to reach 63 by 2021.
While he was confident the company had “a great range of products” — ranging from the A220 to the A350 and long-range A321LR — he noted it faced a new reality in an era of mass manufacturing.
This would mean competitiveness would be determined as much by the efficiency of its production system as by the quality of its products.
“So one of our main challenges as a company is to improve the quality, efficiency and accuracy of our manufacturing for the sake of our customers,’’ he said.
“We’re upgrading our factories with robotics and digital technology,’’ he said.
“We’ve also entered into an agreement with Dassault Systems to sharpen our 3D design and manufacturing capabilities.
“We want to design our next generation of aircraft at the same time as the factories that will produce them – uniting all parts of our production system in one seamless, digital whole.
“This matters: if our next generation of aircraft is to be competitive, we’ll have to develop them significantly faster than before – perhaps 30 percent faster.”
Shorter-term challenges included the US-China trade war currently destabilizing the global economy and Brexit.
“At Airbus, we are convinced that there are never any winners in a trade war,” Faury said.
“So we will continue to stand up for open borders and free trade that is conducted on a level global playing field.”
Airbus later announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with SAS Scandinavian Airlines to conduct research into hybrid and electric and electric aircraft.
The MoU will see the two companies cooperate on a joint research project to better understand the operational and infrastructure opportunities involved with the large-scale introduction of hybrid and full-electric aircraft to airline operations.
The project will continue to the end of 2020.
Steve Creedy visited Toulouse courtesy of Airbus