Conference by François Caudron, Airbus – Royal Aeronautical Society – Toulouse, Nov. 15, 2016 – Irma Fubiani & David Machado Report

On November 15th, Ms Irma Fubiani (i.fubiani@tbs-education.org) and David Machado (d.machado@tbs-education.org), both TBS Aerospace MBA FT18 (Full-Time) Delegates attended a conference hosted by the Royal Aeronautical Society (http://www.aerosociety.com), which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Here is the note written by Irma & David, on this conference entitled “Airbus Success Through Innovation”.


It is actually a very interesting organisation, and we encourage you to consider becoming a member, as they have diverse specialized group and a large membership of aerospace enthusiasts and specialists.

Mr. François Caudron

Mr. François Caudron

The talk was by Mr. François Caudron, Senior VP of Marketing at Airbus Group, on “Airbus Success through Innovation”

In 1969 Airbus held only 18 per cent of the total market. It had limited commercial success despite its technological strengths. How did Airbus become what it is today? What kind of innovative conceptions did Airbus bring about to achieve a leadership position? Mr Caudron spoke largely about how, at every step, from the beginning and the conception of the first aircraft, Airbus has focused on deciding the correct aircraft size, number of engines, seat size, number of aisles and cabin comfort. Always seeking to satisfy its customer needs (airlines) and their passengers, the company uses focus groups and other surveys to improve continuously the qualities of its aircraft, so that the passenger experience is as best as it can be, especially in long haul flights.

Throughout the years, Airbus has developed new families of aircrafts, always seeking to simplify its operations, using more composites in its parts, reducing its number of suppliers whilst partnering with them and sharing risks.

Airspace_by_Airbus

“Airspace by Airbus”, one of the slide displayed during the conference

On the customer side, Airbus constantly seeks to involve them to ensure their changing needs are met. With the use of 3D technologies now they can build their own cabin, and experience a virtual reality model of it in, and then visit the Hamburg site where all types of seats and cabin equipment comprising all manufacturers and different materials are very well displayed in a way that helps them compare and choose the desired materials (carpet, chair furbishing) and arrangements for trolleys, ovens and kitchen items, and even toilets.

Besides displaying all the providers’ furnishings, Airbus has innovated creating its own line called “Airspace” featuring high standards, new designs and cabin services.

Quoting Adam Brown (Former VP of Customer Affairs) in Innovation and positioning, he said ‘Airbus policy right from the start has been not to incorporate new technologies for their own sake but which produce clear pay-offs in safety, operational capability and profitability benefits. This approach enabled the A300…. To offer airlines a 20 per cent saving in direct operating costs per trip relative to competing tri-jets.’

Regarding innovation in design, we learned than for example the A350XWB burns 25 per cent less fuel than previous generation twins.

In Manufacturing, Airbus has innovated with is “Development and Ramp Excellence “ (DARE) program, allowing for a reduced development lead time, faster ramp up and higher reliability.

When asked about competitors, Mr Caudron said “we love competitors, they keep us on our toes” – but having spoken about how it takes 30+ years to achieve a solid, strategic position, we understand in a duopoly model of large aircrafts, competitors do not pop up overnight.

In the age of social media, Mr Caudron mentions that it is the customers who drive the industry. Positive or negative tweets or comments about an airline, service or an airplane can have a significant impact on other travelers. Take for example the following Youtube video.

To conclude his talk, he mentioned he had noticed a large number of students in the room, he left us with these thoughts, which to us were a valuable part of the talk: “Do something that you are passionate about, that inspires you; and of course throughout your careers you need to set some goals –but most importantly, you have to Enjoy the Journey

From left to right: David, Cansu and Irma

From left to right: David, Cansu and Irma

From a personal perspective, the conference gave a good insight into Airbus’ past and present innovation programs, but not much about the future, and to some extent, understandably so: as it is not a good idea to make public what your next steps are to gain market share to the competitors.  However, a little insight into adapting new energy sources (solar or hydrogen power, batteries) and noise reduction designs would have been a cherry on the cake.

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