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Lean Innovation Strategy in Airbus Defence & Space


MeleOKAirbus Defence and Space began their lean product development journey with the support and full involvement of senior management in 2011. To the date, the company has focused on the implementation of Hoshin Kanri, Value Stream Mapping and Visual Management tools to improve their engineering capability throughout the organization. In 2014 alone, Military Aircraft Engineering department saved over €3 million as a result of lean transformation.

In this article, we are presenting you one of the participating companies of Lean Product Development Best Practices Discovery project 2015. Airbus Defence & Space is a global pioneer in creation of innovative, effective space and defence solutions and services.

Airbus Defence & Space joined the project to share the best practices and find opportunities for future collaboration. During the project, LAA team interviewed lean experts and change agents from Military Aircraft and documented their lean product development best practices and the impact of lean implementation on the company`s processes.

Airbus Defence & Space embarked on its lean implementation journey in product development in 2011 and was based on the experiences from Airbus commercial aircraft. In the case of Military Aircraft, senior management was on board from the start, which means that from the CEO to the last employee in project development, the organization took lean thinking as a way of working. Hence, the company was able to define a clear strategy that integrates guidelines (a roadmap), vision and management model with the overall company objectives.




In the Engineering branch of Military Aircraft business line, Visual Management is deployed throughout, enabling teams and management to communicate efficiently and transparently. Using the Practical Problem Solving tool, teams are able to respond to and solve challenges as they occur through the development process. Top management plays an important role in all lean activities with one major responsibility; establishing yearly objectives through Hoshin Kanri. Airbus Defence & Space launches more than 10 breakthrough improvement projects each year.

Airbus’s lean strategy builds on three pillars: leadership, environment and processes. This strategy, lean transformation and company’s commitment to continuous improvement resulted in savings of over €3 million in the engineering department of Military Aircraft in 2014 alone. However, Airbus Defence & Space learned a lot on their lean journey, and here are some lessons they learned along the way:

  • The senior management’s commitment and involvement has been key to engaging employees at all levels of the organization. An example is the implementation of Hoshin Kanri and the “Go, Look and See” activities starting from the company’s CEO.
  • Demonstrating quick results in the resolution of problems affecting daily work was essential for getting onboard work teams. For example, the use of workflow control boards helped to establish priorities, balance the workload and improve communication within the new product development teams.
  • Being able to demonstrate benefits from lean pilot projects has played a huge role in getting the go-ahead for deploying different tools and other improvement projects.


Are you looking to improve your product development?
Would you like to learn from world leaders?
Contact us for a free digital copy of the entire Airbus Defence & Space Best Practices case, and read in details about their lean product development journey, which practices they employ, how they approached the implementation, and what benefits are they harvesting from it.






A group photo after a successful day of collecting lean product development best practices in Airbus Defence & Space in Madrid, Spain.


Are you too interested in sharing you best practices from Lean Product Development?

Hurry up, the 2016 Best Practices project is starting in March 2016!





María Elena Ordóñez y Revuelta
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