Accompanying customer development
Rising demands for production require aircraft manufacturers to significantly increase their capacity through investment in new infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment, recruitment of skilled workers, and other strategies. This represents both challenges and opportunities for their partners.
The aeronautics industry is a competitive sector. Major manufacturers are constantly seeking to establish themselves in new markets. Airbus, one of the world leaders in civil aviation, has successfully expanded its presence in North America by setting up production sites in Canada and the United States (US).
The A220 and A320 touch ground in the US
Formerly known as the Bombardier C Series, the A220 has played a key role in this expansion strategy. In 2018, after announcing the launch of its Canadian program, Airbus set up an A220 production line in Mirabel, Quebec. “This plant has become a nerve center for global A220 production,” says Fréderi Gautier, ALTEN Account Director. Airbus has also invested in a new A220 final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, to meet growing demand in the United States.
“The A220 is a new-generation airliner in the 100- to 150-seat category. This aircraft is highly appreciated for its reduced fuel consumption, improved operational performance and low noise level,” adds Geoffrey Catala, account director. Because the A220’s engines offer increased efficiency, they also have a lower environmental footprint. These features make it an attractive choice for airlines looking to upgrade their fleets with more modern, fuel-efficient aircraft. “What’s more,” says Geoffrey, “its flexible cabin configuration allows airlines to tailor the interior layout to their specific needs, providing an enhanced travel experience for passengers.”
Airbus’ entry into the North American market dates to 2015, when it responded to growing demand in the US market by setting up an A320 aircraft assembly plant at its Mobile, Alabama facility. “This was the first time Airbus had produced commercial aircraft in the United States,” explains Fréderi. “The Mobile plant played a crucial role in Airbus’ expansion strategy in the US.” The establishment of the Mobile plant enabled Airbus to shorten delivery times and reduce aircraft transportation costs in the US. With a strengthened presence there, Airbus was able to compete more effectively with its competitor, Boeing.
In addition to the Mobile assembly plant,” says Nana Kane, Senior Account Manager for ALTEN, “Airbus has also developed partnerships with US suppliers for the production of key components for the A320 aircraft. This in turn has strengthened ties with the US aerospace industry and fostered knowledge and technology transfer between Airbus and its US partners.”
Increased production rates among customers in the North American market also offer opportunities for ALTEN, known for its advanced technical expertise, capacity for innovation and competitive costs. “Manufacturers are looking for partners who can offer specialized solutions to meet their specific needs,” says Nana. “Partners who can offer innovative technologies, increased efficiency and cutting-edge solutions stand a good chance of winning subcontracts.”
As production ramps up, Airbus is carrying out IT transformation projects to integrate the computer data from the A220 program, where possible, into the global Airbus system. The objective is to ensure Airbus’ autonomy in terms of recovering the data, and of the tools it uses to do so. “It’s not lift and shift,” insists Fréderi. “In some cases, yes, but in others, it’s much more complex. You need to review the architecture, the infrastructure, all the technical parameters to integrate the data into the global Airbus environment.”
“ALTEN’s know-how and expertise, built up over more than 20 years of partnership with Airbus, enable us to support this integration effectively,” concludes Fréderi. “Our Canadian, American and global teams come together to offer the best business solutions to the customer, including time and materials, work packages, and hybrid offers with local and offshore project offices, among many others.
On another front, ALTEN is working with the Airbus Engineering Center in Mobile – an extension of the Airbus Engineering Center in Hamburg – on the development of multi-purpose cabin-cargo systems. “We are also lending support for the production ramp-up of the innovative, digitally enabled A320/A321,” adds Nana. This includes work on the construction and implementation of a new A320 final assembly line (FAL), which will be operational in 2025. ALTEN is setting up a new office in Mobile to this end.