Airbus Defence and Space’s Lean Product Development Journey
In 2011 Airbus Defence & Space began to implement lean thinking counting with the commitment from senior management. The company has focused on the implementation of Hoshin Kanri, Value Stream Mapping and Visual Management to improve the engineering capability throughout the organization.
Airbus Defence & Space is one of three companies within the Airbus Group. The lean thinking approach has integrated all the functions required in the end to end product development process and is based on three pillars: 1) leadership, 2) environment and 3) processes. In addition, guidelines and tools were deployed aligned with the lean strategy, including practical problem solving and Gemba walks.
Continue reading to discover more details of the lean practices Airbus Defence & Space has implemented to increase its innovation success.
Airbus Group creates cutting-edge technology and is a global pioneer in aeronautics, space and defense-related services. Combining a European past with global outreach, the diversity of the company’s talent and technology drives innovation, integration and internationalization.
Airbus Defence & Space was created in June 2014 as a result of the integration of Airbus Military, Cassidian and Astrium, all of which were previously part of the EADS group. This division has a presence in 18 European countries and in more than 30 countries worldwide. It is organized into four business lines, including Space Systems, Communications, Intelligence and Security, and Electronics and Military Aircraft.
In 2012, a Lean Network of Experts and Change Agents was established. Starting in 2013, the company began to incorporate Hoshin Kanri, defining it as the key tool for setting out the company’s vision, implementing objectives at all levels and establishing improvement priorities. Since 2014, Practical Problem Solving is used as an everyday tool, lean objectives are included in Visual Management, and Kaizen events are defined according to the objectives and priorities established in the Hoshin Kanri.
Through its journey, Airbus Defence & Space established best practices in several aspects of Lean Product Development. These practices were identified and structured according to the four building blocks of the Lean Innovation Model. Below are just some of the best practices identified and described in the Airbus’ chapter of the Lean Product Development Best Practices Book.
1) STRATEGY AND PERFORMANCE
Airbus lean strategy is based on 3 pillars: leadership, environment and processes.
To enable the Leadership Pillar, Airbus began to implement Hoshin Kanri (HK) in 2013 to align the daily management of activities with senior management objectives producing results based on system-wide efforts.
The Environment Pillar is supported by several approaches, but in particular by Visual Management, facilitating work and performance for both team members and project leaders since it allows the identification of risks, and anticipates problems, sets priorities, takes action and bumps matters requiring intervention up to a higher level.
Last but not least for the Lean Processes pillar, focusing on providing value to the customers and identifying Business Improvement Projects after carrying out SIPOC analysis.
2) SKILLED PEOPLE AND COLLABORATION
Lean knowledge is spread along the organization through the Lean Academy that offers a number of trainings on Lean Business Processes, Practical Problem Solving, Value Stream Mapping, etc. Other activities are also organized by the Lean Network to increase awareness and speed up the lean mindset across the organization.
In addition, and in order to foster cultural change, some activities are empowered to break silos between different organizations by improving the communication and collaboration among them. Some examples are:
- Concurrent engineering
- Cross-functional visual management
- Cross-functional Kaizen events
3) EFFICIENT PROCESS AND KNOWLEDGE BASED ENVIRONMENT
All Business Improvement Projects at Airbus are managed with the Lean Business Improvement Projects (LBPI) methodology, building upon Airbus’s lean improvement mind-set and giving project teams what they need to improve the likelihood that their project is completed in accordance with time, cost and performance objectives.
Airbus Defence & Space classifies the waste that can occur under eight types. One of them, and according to the top management the most dangerous one, is “Not using the Human Potential available within the company”. Therefore, it is the responsibility of employees at all levels to promote a work environment, which ensures that:
- All competences and skills of the teams are utilized
- Team potential usage is optimized
- All teams are involved in continuous improvement
- Improvement ideas are supported and implemented
- All employees’ knowledge and experience is shared
4) CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT AND CHANGE
Lean Experts, Change Agents and Lean Improvers are part of the Lean Airbus Network, which was created in order to share best practices. Lean Days are periodically organized allowing various business areas to share their projects. In addition, Lean Days include teams identifying organizational needs, analyzing challenges and defining action plans.
Creating the Lean Network has facilitated the dissemination of lean knowledge. Along with lean events that are also organized in the different functions, the Lean Network has also helped to promote cultural exchange and stimulate a philosophy of continuous improvement within the organization.
Keeping in mind that the engineering area consists of more than 2,800 employees, its main lean management achievements include implementing Visual Management in 132 teams and, with the application of Practical Problem Solving, solving more than 50 problems. Only during 2014, 13 Kaizen projects were launched, saving €3 million, and 20 Hoshin Kanri sessions were held in order to define objectives for the following year.
Airbus Defence & Space’s Best Practices are presented and described on more than 30 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. Airbus Defence & Space’s chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of lean product development in multinational companies.
The hard copy of the book with the 10 cases is available for only 74.99 EUR.
Airbus Defence & Space’s Lean Product Development case is available digitally free or charge to our members.
Interested to become a member?
About the Authors
Lean Analytics Association
Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.
She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable Industry-University collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996
Airbus Defence & Space
David Muñoz is currently a Lean Expert at Airbus Defence & Space. After 6 years working in Lean Manufacturing and Lean Engineering at Airbus Commercial, David started a new journey deploying Lean at Airbus DS. In the last 4 years he has focused on Lean Management and strategy in Programs, Engineering, Procurement, Quality and Manufacturing.
In his current role he is leading the missions in the task force in Military Aircraft to provide solutions to the main problems identified across the Business Lines. In the other side acting as responsible of aligning Lean strategy for Airbus DS subsidiaries as well as leader of benchmarking on Lean with other companies.
David Muñoz holds a M. Eng. in Industrial Engineering and is also currently Associate Professor of Lean Fundamentals as well as tutor of Ph.D. at UAM University.
Airbus Defence & Space
Silvia Pascual is currently a Lean Expert at Airbus Defence & Space. After 5 years working as an Aeronautical System Engineer, Silvia started in 2012 working in Lean Engineering and currently, she is supporting continuous and business transformation in areas as Quality, Manufacturing, Programs and Procurement.
She is responsible for identifying improvement opportunities and takes the accountability of specific End to End Missions within Military Aircraft. As part of her role, she offers specific solutions based on lean methods, tools and practices. In addition, Silvia is responsible for the deployment of Hoshin Kanri to establish the Strategic objectives and Projects of the organization. Also, she supports transversal activities as processes harmonization and knowledge sharing.
Silvia Pascual holds a Degree in Aeronautical Engineering, a M. Eng. in Industrial Engineering and a Master in Systems Engineering.
MARÍA ELENA ORDÓÑEZ
Lean Analytics Association
Dr. Ordóñez is responsible of the Research Center for Family-Work Balance (CONFyE) leading projects integrated to the strategy of the IAE Business School from the Universidad Austral in Argentina. She joined at Lean Analytics Association (LAA) in 2015 as a Sr. Researcher investigating how companies implement lean thinking in the innovation process. She collaborated with Airbus and Telefonica in Spain. She also supported the organization of the Lean Innovation Forum which took place in Lausanne, Switzerland.
She has over 15 years of experience working in different organizations and her research interests are: Innovation, Change Management, Corporate Social Responsibility and Work-Life Balance.
Maria Elena obtained her PhD in Business Administration from University of Navarra in 2014 (Spain) an MBA from IAE Business School in 2004 and Bachelor’s Degree as a Public Accountant from the National University of Córdoba (Argentina).