ZeroM, Airbus’ effort to reduce traveled work

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By Scott Hamilton

Jan. 16, 2023, © Leeham News: Traveled work is the bane of any airplane manufacturer’s production line.

“Traveled work” is when parts are unavailable when the plane is in final assembly. To keep production moving, the manufacturer—whether it’s Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, or some other firm—notes the missing item and continues production. The airplane is rolled off the line and the work is finished on the ramp when the part becomes available.

Jurgen Westermeier, Airbus Chief Procurement Officer. Credit: Airbus.

The OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) approach the issue differently. Some prefer the parts to arrive “just in time,” which keeps inventory to a minimum. This reduces cash outflow.

But just in time creates the problem of missing parts. One time, Airbus was assembling A320s, and USB ports failed to arrive while planes were on the assembly line. The ports had to be installed later—traveled work.

Another option is to create an inventory. But to minimize the cash commitment, and the space taken up by inventory, the OEMs limit the supply. Airbus, for example, has a “buffer” of between a few weeks and a few months, depending on the parts.

Airbus also attacks the challenge with a program called ZeroM. LNA met last month with Airbus’ chief procurement officer (CPO), Jurgen Westermeier, on the sidelines of the Aviation Forum in Hamburg. He explained ZeroM and how it works. Below is a transcript of our meeting. It has been edited for clarity and space.

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