Saab produces ailerons for Airbus' big seller, the A320. The tremendous demand for the aircraft has led to an increased production rate.
Image: Production of ailerons for the A320 at Saab
With more than 3,000 aircraft from the A320 family in the order book, Airbus decided in May to increase the rate to produce 42 aircraft every month, starting in the fourth quarter of 2012. At present, 38 aircraft are produced every month and in the first quarter of 2012, there will be 40 aircraft produced each month, a rate that Saab has now adapted its production to.
"It is fantastic to follow the successful sales of Airbus' A320 family and we are delighted and proud to be involved in the manufacture. We are continuously adapting our production based on Airbus' production plans and have now taken an initial step towards a 42-rate," says Maria Emilsson, business manager at Saab.
The rate increase to 40 ailerons has necessitated maintaining the same resources and same number of stations in the production line. The rate increase has been planned and prepared for six months or so at Saab, and in early October it was time for the new rate to be implemented.
Work smarter – not run faster
In order to increase the rate, the time at each production station has been shortened. Ulf Grufman is the production manager for the ailerons and he explains that the focus throughout has been on working smarter – not running faster.
"We have worked to rebalance the production stations so that the flow becomes more even. For example, this has meant moving operations between the various manufacturing stations. Many of the changes we have implemented came from the operators themselves."
One such change has been to develop the best work method descriptions for each manufacturing station. The descriptions are there to ensure that every operator executes the work in the same way.
"The operators had lots of ideas about how these descriptions could be improved and these have now been implemented. For instance, we have reduced the amount of text and are now working more with images to help make the descriptions clearer and more visual," says Ulf Grufman.
- Saab began supplying ailerons to the A320 family in 2001. In 2006, the contract was renewed resulting in Saab undertaking a major effort in the goal to reduce the production costs for the ailerons. This was accomplished through an innovative new design and new production methods.
- The new version performs the same functions and has the same characteristics as the previous version, but the number of component parts has been halved. Consequently, the time and costs for production have been significantly reduced.
- The ailerons are manufactured in a so-called paced line.
- The aileron sits on the outer edge of the wing and can be angled upwards and downwards. Its function is to control how the aircraft moves (rotates) around its longitudinal axis. Ailerons always operate in pairs, one of which is angled downward to increase the lift on the wing, while the other is angled upwards to reduce the lift on the wing. As a result, the aircraft rolls (rotates around its own axis).