Airbus begins revamp of its aero structure manufacturing unit

By Sayujya S, Desk Reporter
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The European planemaker Airbus has launched the biggest reorganization of its manufacturing network in more than a decade, with large-parts activities shaken-up in France and Germany and some small-parts production being spun-off ahead of a possible sale.

Airbus stated that it would combine aero structure assembly in France under one entity, bringing major fuselage parts plants together with the worldwide operations.

In Germany, its Premium Aerotec unit will be split, with part of it combined with manufacturing plants in Stade and some of the large Hamburg factory, and the rest folded into a new business specializing in small mass-produced “detail” parts.

Those parts can range from small generic items like metal brackets costing a few dollars to complex machined items costing tens of thousands, such as those made in the highly automated Varel plant in Germany. Also included in the new spin-off are part of the Augsburg plant in Germany and the Brasov facility in Romania.

“We are in the process of reviewing different ownership structures to identify the best possible solution,” a spokesman said, referring to the new Germany-based detail-parts spin-off.

Core manufacturing

The shake-up comes two months after Chief Executive Guillaume Faury declared aero structures, which includes the manufacturing of fuselage parts, to be “core”. Once considered the less valuable end of the aerospace spectrum, aero structures are considered vital to the aerodynamically complex, decarbonized designs of the future.

The reorganization reinforces efforts to sell the whole of Stelia and PremiumAerotec which were both carved out in 2009 as part of a restructuring plan called Power8. Initial sale hopes were dashed by the financial crisis and few buyers have emerged since.

New industrial blueprint

The new industrial blueprint, which coincides with a broader restructuring involving up to 15,000 core Airbus jobs triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, is subject to talks with unions. It will go into effect at the start of next year and its implementation will be a priority for the company’s new operations chief, Alberto Gutierrez, who moved up from running the military aircraft business in a reshuffle recently.

Discussions continue about manufacturing operations in Spain, which has been hard hit by the halt of production of the A380 superjumbo and a slump in demand for wide-body aircraft.

Airbus commercial jet making is spread out across a dozen or more plants in France, Germany, Britain and Spain, with final assembly outposts in China and the United States.

The coronavirus crisis has forced the planemaker to cut costs while giving it the opportunity to reorganize at a time when output is 40 percent slower than usual due to the drop in air travel demand. The shake-up appears to stay away from factory closures but leaves the door open to greater internal competition whenever Airbus launches future projects, industry sources said.

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