Airbus Changing A220 Assembly Process To Speed Up Deliveries

Last month, Airbus reported that it had a backlog of nearly 500 A220s on order. With the planemaker’s slow production rate, it would take over a decade to clear the current backlog under today’s production rates. Thus, hoping to get deliveries out to customers sooner, Airbus will streamline some of its A220 production to speed up assembly and reduce costs at the same time.

For its latest A220, Air Canada took delivery of a single-300 at the end of January 2021. Photo: Airbus

Lowering assembly times and costs

In its August reporting, Airbus noted that it had delivered 30 Airbus A220s (of both the -100 and -300 variants) since January. With eight months having passed, this makes for a rate of just under four per month. Under this rate, with no new orders, Airbus’ backlog would take a whopping 125 months or 10 years to clear. In late May, Airbus reported a rate of five per month, which is still a slower-than-desired rate for the company.

That would be just one incentive for the European planemaker to look for ways to ramp up production of its newest narrowbody aircraft. However, Airbus’ streamlining of A220 production will also benefit the company financially with reduced costs.

According to Leeham News, Airbus is streamlining some of A220 production to assist the assembly of jets at both its Mirabel and Mobile plants. This move will see a reduction in both costs and assembly time. The media outlet reports that the head of the Airbus A220 program, Florent Massou, hopes to reduce the final assembly time for the A220 by 50%. Massou also confirmed costs would be reduced but declined to say by how much.

Did you guess it right? Follow each and every step of @AirCanada‘s first #A220 assembly start in Mirabel, Québec, Canada.

— Airbus (@Airbus) August 14, 2019

Streamlining production

The reduction in costs and assembly time will be achieved with the streamlining of certain production processes.

One method mentioned is the “stuffing” of fuselages prior to their movement to the final assembly line in Mirabel and Mobile. This will see systems above the floor level installed ahead of time, such as piping, insulation, and other parts hidden behind sidewall panels.

Leeham news notes that this will be key to the A220 program’s profitability, as even a production rate of five A220s per month is estimated by an analyst to lose Airbus about $400m.

Despite the aircraft’s popularity, production must speed up in order to be profitable. Photo: Airbus

Tripling production rates

Airbus has the goal of increasing its A220 rate of production to 14 by 2025. This will see 10 produced each month at its Mirabel facility and four at Mobile. 

“The aviation sector is beginning to recover from the COVID-19 crisis…The message to our supplier community provides visibility to the entire industrial ecosystem to secure the necessary capabilities and be ready when market conditions call for it.” -Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO (May 2021)

In the same statement, Airbus noted that the A220 production rate is confirmed to rise to around six per month in early 2022.

With the A220’s size and capabilities now proven to be “pandemic resistant,” it makes perfect sense for Airbus to make its production process as efficient as possible. Hopefully, in streamlining its operations, the planemaker will see the results it’s hoping for.

Will Airbus manage to get its production rate up to its 2025 goal? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

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