Oct. 30, 2019, © Leeham News: Guillaume Faury assumed his office as chief executive officer of the Airbus Group at a time when the company was trying to emerge from years-long scandals over bribery and corruption probes and the industry was only beginning to reel from the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.
Now, he’s focused on guiding Airbus in the future through a series of transformations to put the scandals behind the company, change production for the future and prepare for new airplanes that inevitably must be designed.
Faury’s been with Airbus for 20 years, surrounding a four-year stint with Peugeot from 2009-2013 as EVPO of Research and Development. He was named president of Airbus Commercial in February 2018. He previously was president and CEO of Airbus Helicopters from 2013-2018.
He succeeded CEO Tom Enders, who was not going to be given another term as part of the fallout of the numerous government investigations into past practices at Airbus involving third parties for aircraft sales, bribery and corruption allegations.
Although Enders and CFO Harald Wilhelm initiated the probes and reported the problems to the governments, they along with many others had to go as Airbus tried to limit the damage.
Compliance, obviously, emerges from the years of investigations by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office and governments in Germany, France and the US. Faury is continuing the Airbus efforts toward compliance.
“We want to be known as a company that relies very strong pillars of quality, safety, integrity and compliance,” he said in an interview Oct. 17 with LNA.
Faury doesn’t have any indication when the investigations will be wrapped up. What’s important, he said, is that Airbus emerges in a leadership position on compliance.
“We had three main things to do: full cooperation with the authorities, which we have done from day one. The second thing was to change a number of people in the company to emerge with a team that was not affected by what happened. The third one was to put in place a compliance system is state of the art. This is what we are doing. We have made a lot of progress and therefore what we had to do in that situation is something we are prepared to moving forward,” he said.
“It’s not only the mindset, it’s about the culture, the training and the know-how. It’s values. It’s also the way we work together in transformations. It’s the way we want to contribute.”
Faury is also focused on improving the Airbus production system. Airbus, Faury said, has fallen behind in some areas.
“There are transformational challenges we have tried to clarify,” he said. The products and production systems need to change. The synergies, the know-how, the automation, the robotization of very large and complex objects like planes is kicking in and will make a big difference for the next generation of airplanes,” he said.
“The transformational change is where we need to do more.”
He says Airbus is far ahead of Boeing in the area of digitalization, an initiative begun under Enders.
“I would differentiate manufacturing techniques and digital, because right or wrong, my perception is that we are ahead of Boeing very significantly in digital. How do I measure it? The A350 program management, certification, production, industrialization, entry into service has been very well managed, and it’s mainly because of the 3D approach of the product,” he said.
“And when I look at Skywise, I think we are in a unique position in the industry, and I don’t see Boeing doing something similar. We have really understood the value of big data, how to manage them, how to put them on a platform. We are now close to 100 airlines having joined the program, putting their data on that platform. We are moving forward as well in terms of 3D into DDMS, okay, which is digital design, manufacturing and services.”
Skywise is an Airbus program that, among other things, provides predictive maintenance and notifies the airplane crew and ground maintenance of specific issues that need to be addressed as the plane arrives at the gate. This cuts time to identify and fix problems that pop up during flights and reduces delays and costs to the airlines.
“The comparison with Boeing in my view is not 350 versus others, because if we would do this comparison, I think we are ahead,” he said. “I think what Boeing has done on the NG, on the production system of the 737 NG was a bolder approach to the product and the production system than what we’ve been doing in Airbus. But I have a feeling with what we are doing in Hangar 245, with the automation we have put in Broughton, with the FAL 4 in Hamburg, we are having a trajectory with maybe more speed. So I think it’s not easy to compare.”
Boeing adopted a moving production line for the NG that dramatically increased efficiencies and lowered costs. There were some painful times when the supply chain failed to keep up, but today Boeing has the ability to produce 70 737s a month through the Renton factory—an extraordinary efficiency for one building.
Airbus’ A320 production platform in Toulouse is less automated than those in Hamburg, where a new highly automated line opened last month.
Boeing is engaged in a multi-year shift to a host of advanced manufacturing techniques under the code name Black Diamond. The plan has been to converge all these techniques for the first time at Boeing Commercial Airplanes into the New Midmarket Airplane (NMA). The time and cost reduction is an important part of the NMA business plan, which hasn’t closed after several years of effort.
Now, with the 737 MAX grounding that so far has cost Boeing $9.2bn—a figure that is certain to rise—it’s questionable whether the NMA will ever get off the ground. (NMA off the table in 2020 and maybe entirely, Oct. 21, 2019.)
“We share the same perception that the NMA was the convergence of the project’s initiative to go full digital for the product and the production system” Faury said. “Call it digital twin. We use this expression as well. We see that they have used some of the building blocks of previous experiences.”
“On the NMA itself, we think it is a very difficult segment, given the fact they have the 737 and the 787. It’s a very narrow segment. We have placed our planes already. They have to catch up now. We are happy they are coming late to the party.”
Airbus years ago began upping its game in the environmental arena. Faury wants a greater push going forward.
“The third [transformation] is the speed of change of society, of the states, of the regulation, of the expectations of customers, of people, of our own employees. That shows we need to be much faster and taking things much more seriously with the environment and the de-carbonization of aviation,” he says.