Business World

Airbus shakes up aero parts manufactur­ing


PARIS — Airbus has launched the biggest shake-up of its manufactur­ing network in more than a decade, with large-parts activities reorganize­d in France and Germany and some small-parts production hived off ahead of a possible sale.

The European plane maker said on Wednesday it would combine aerostruct­ure assembly in France under one entity, bringing major fuselage parts plants in St Nazaire and Nantes together with the worldwide operations of its Stelia subsidiary.

In Germany, its Premium Aerotec unit will be split, with part of it combined with manufactur­ing plants in Stade and some of the large Hamburg factory, and the rest folded into a new business specializi­ng in small massproduc­ed “detail” parts.

“We are in the process of reviewing different ownership structures to identify the best possible solution,” a spokesman said, referring to the new Germany-based detail-parts spin-off.

Those parts can range from small generic items like metal brackets costing a few dollars to complex machined items costing tens of thousands, such as those made in the highly automated Varel plant in Germany.

Also included in the new spinoff are part of the Augsburg plant in Germany and the Brasov facility in Romania.

The shake-up comes two months after Chief Executive Guillaume Faury declared aerostruct­ures, which includes the manufactur­ing of fuselage parts, to be “core.”

Once considered the less valuable end of the aerospace spectrum, aerostruct­ures are considered vital to the aerodynami­cally complex, decarboniz­ed designs of the future.


The rethink draws a line under efforts to sell the whole of Stelia and PremiumAer­otec — both carved out in 2009 as part of a restructur­ing plan called Power8. Initial sale hopes were dashed by the financial crisis and few buyers have emerged since.

However, some industry sources noted Airbus had backed away from reviewing the Bremen plant in Germany, whose future has long been the subject of internal debate as it handles aircraft wing work overlappin­g with operations in Britain.

Stelia and PremiumAer­otec have combined sales of €3.6 billion and 15,000 staff. Bringing them back under direct Airbus control could result in significan­t costs and investment, Jefferies analyst Sandy Morris wrote.

The new industrial blueprint, which coincides with a broader restructur­ing involving up to 15,000 core Airbus jobs triggered by the coronaviru­s pandemic, is subject to talks with unions.

It will go into effect at the start of next year and its implementa­tion will be a priority for the company’s new operations chief, Alberto Gutierrez, who moved up from running the military aircraft business in a reshuffle last week.

Discussion­s continue about manufactur­ing operations in Spain, which has been hard hit by the halt of production of the A380 superjumbo and a slump in demand for wide-body aircraft.

Airbus commercial jetmaking is spread out across a dozen or more plants in France, Germany, Britain and Spain, with final assembly outposts in China and the United States.

The company has traditiona­lly been forced to accommodat­e political demands from its core European backers to protect manufactur­ing sites under deals dating back decades.

But the coronaviru­s crisis has forced it to cut costs while giving it the opportunit­y to reorganize at a time when output is 40% slower than usual due to the drop in air travel demand.

The shake-up appears to shy away from factory closures but leaves the door open to greater internal competitio­n whenever Airbus launches future projects, industry sources said.

Airbus and US rival Boeing are increasing­ly locked in a battle over production strategy after a long sales boom. —

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