Increased deliveries at reduced costs

Saab develops and manufactures ailerons for the top selling Airbus A320 Family. An in-house developed aileron based on the utilisation of advanced composite technology and the introduction of lean principles throughout the chain has resulted in significantly reduced production costs.

The A320 Family is an extremely popular family of aircraft that has recently passed the 50 million mark in completed flights. With ten take-offs every minute, they have become a familiar sight at airports and in our skies, and with over 6,500 aircraft sold and more than 4,300 aircraft delivered to some 310 customers and operators worldwide, the A320 Family is a true best seller.

This can be partly attributed to the continuous investments made by Airbus and its partners to keep the A320 Family technology state of the art. One example of this is Saab's in-house developed aileron which has contributed to a much more profitable and efficient manufacturing process.

In 2007, Saab began produce an in-house developed aileron for the A320 as the sole manufacturer. Externally it appears identical to the old version, with the same weight and performance. However, there are many differences with this aileron, such as:

  • The number of parts has been halved
  • The production time has been reduced substantially
  • Production is more efficient

"The manufacture of ailerons for the A320 is a high volume programme, which therefore puts tremendous demands on the manufacturing technology," says Magnus Falk, Head of Business Development, Marketing and Sales for Aerostructures at Saab. 

The new aileron mostly consists of composite material.  This is combined to form a part that is hardened in a single curing process, unlike before which involved several curing stages. With the new aileron, the composite department has increased productivity by 100 percent and now produces twice as many ailerons each day.

"It seemed an almost impossible task in everyone's eyes – but in retrospect we see that not only did we manage it, we also surpassed the targets that were set," says Magnus Falk.

In two years, Saab has succeeded in the task of doubling the number of ailerons produced and reducing the number of operators. Production meanwhile has been managed without overtime and the number of complaints has decreased significantly. In addition, the operators now rotate between different workstations each day according to a schedule, resulting in a better working environment.

How is this possible? The newly developed aileron naturally required a new approach and the introduction of several Lean principles.

  • A pulsed line with new machinery and tools was completed
  • The composite shells are manufactured using Saab's Automatic Tape Laying Machine, minimising both lay-up time and waste
  • The balancing of work procedures on the pulsed line has been optimised

The latest stage in the development has been to work with pulsed lines elsewhere in the manufacturing chain. An example of this is that pulsed production is also being applied now to the production of composite parts. An additional feature is the handling of components from suppliers, which arrive at the production line in kit form. Warehouse operations have also been streamlined.

"The in-house developed aileron is just one example of Saab's new approach within composites. Having succeeded in developing a new design, while also industrialising it with a new approach that has resulted in significant cost reductions, has provided a wealth of experience both for us and for our customer. This has been possible thanks to the extensive experience we have as a world-class aerospace industry," says Magnus Falk.