Airbus – Creating High-Performance Culture Through a World Class Operating System

Background

Our client, Airbus, is the largest aeronautics and space organisation in Europe. As a global leader
in manufacturing aircraft, the company is home to the most modern and comprehensive aircraft
family in the world.

As part of a funding initiative facilitated by AIDT Workforce Development, funded by the Alabama
State; Airbus US Final Assembly Line [FAL] approached Project7 [P7] with a major change
programme concerning their workforce performance culture. Having previously worked with P7
on a successful project in Canada; a trusted relationship had already been established with the
client.

The recently appointed General Manager of a brand new Final Assembly Line facility in Alabama
was confronted with several issues. The facility was facing the challenging transition from a
facility build phase, constructing two aircrafts per month to test capacity, to a fully operating Final
Assembly Line producing four aircrafts per month – whilst losing the temporary expat expertise
provided from Europe, and without significantly increasing employee numbers.

This change programme was essential, in order to maintain the Airbus Strategy to;

• Increase US market growth
• Meet committed production volume – as agreed in governmental funding plans

Challenges

The key challenges for Airbus, Alabama included;

• Transition from experienced European Airbus employees to new, inexperienced US employees
• Airbus Operating System; the manufacturing maturity assessment level of deployment was
assessed at scoring D with a target condition of A
• A recent Employee Engagement Survey revealed 60% of base-level employees rated Leadership
as either Average or Poor
• 40-50% of the planned workload was being moved [travelled work] to the next workstation for
completion; instead of being completed at one workstation

Our Client desperately needed to address Leadership issues, relating to both employee and
material management within the workstation. Currently, the facility was working in ad-hoc ways
to achieve final assembly of aircraft build; neglecting the formalised systematic approach – vital
in organising materials, tooling, processes and people.

Although Senior Management were aware of the systematic methodologies, they were not being
utilised or deployed – impacting all levels of the workforce. This left base-level employees without
the necessary knowledge and awareness; which would be key in establishing a high-performance
culture.

A reduction in out of station travel work was also crucial, in order to cut costs and gain improved
performance levels.

Solutions

In order to overcome these key challenges, P7 were assigned with designing, implementing and
evaluating a world class operating system through 4 levels of the Airbus, Alabama organisation.
This Solution would enable the effective delivery of aircraft; meeting quality, schedule, cost and
safety – every time, in turn creating a high-performing culture.

P7’s Solution consisted of the seven steps of the P7 Way:

1. Strategy into Action
2. Tiered Visual Performance Management [VPM]
3. Short Interval Control & Performance Dialogues
4. Performance Confirmation & Go Look See
5. Setting Clear & Aligned Targets; Problem-solving Level 1
6. Coaching for Success; Problem-solving Level 2
7. Talent Management and Leadership Development

Having carefully adapted these seven steps to the Airbus Operating System on a previously
successful project, the P7 Way was closely aligned with Airbus’ core principals in mind. This
naturally fuelled the success of the implementations; providing the necessary focus to meet and
go beyond the required standards.

In order to unravel the complex structure of the diverse and highly technical organisation, P7
incorporated two additional tools/techniques into the working environment, including the RACI
Diagram and ICOR Chart. This facilitated a significant breakthrough in the project’s success
and enabled improvements in the identification of employee roles, tasks and timescales; further
supporting the project’s implementations.

Despite the success of the project’s implementations, P7 recognised an over-estimation in the
local knowledge of the new workforce in the Airbus Operating System standards. With hindsight,
slowing down the pace of the implementations, extending the length of the project or employing
extra team members may have helped further boost improvements.

Impact on Performance