EADS specialises in aerospace, defence and related products and services. The group includes Airbus, Eurocopter and EADS Astrium, the European leader in space programmes. EADS is the major partner in the Eurofighter consortium, develops the A400M military transport aircraft, and holds a stake in MBDA, the international leader in missile systems. The group employs over 100,000 people at more than 70 production sites in France, Germany, the UK and Spain as well as in the US and Australia.
Oakland Consulting has been working with EADS over several years to develop and implement an effective improvement programme. This case study briefly describes just one of the hundreds of projects undertaken. It describes the first project undertaken by an EADS Black Belt candidate, recently trained by Oakland Consulting in Lean Six Sigma.
A business improvement team within the rotor blade activities function at Eurocopter’s technical directorate in Marignane, Southern France, implemented an improvement project that was designed to improve customer satisfaction. It was triggered by a reported increase in the number of incidents involving helicopters compared to the previous year. This increase could have been explained by an increased volume of flying hours or by the greater variety of product versions in live operation. However, the team was concerned that this increased volume could adversely affect the turnaround time and costs of servicing these incidents. The goal set, therefore, was to reduce average incident-handling time by 20 per cent.
The team adopted a structured methodology for problem solving that is represented by the acronym “DRIVER” (see fig 1). After creating a clear definition of the problem, the team spent time critically analysing all data pertaining to customer expectations and perceptions of service. After defining customer expectations in terms of reducing lead times, the team shed light on the process at the centre of handling the incidents and measured performance. The service delivery process was mapped and the critical “moments of truth” at which customer perceptions were formed were identified. Data flow analysis was used to understand the key factors that determined total turnaround time and efficiency.
Figure 1: DRIVER
Before areas for improvement were developed the team benchmarked their process with other credible sources of reverence, discovering new ideas for service innovation. Finally, after the changes were implemented, control charts were installed to embed the necessary management disciplines for live operation.
Benchmarking was carried out with other EADS business units with similar problems and this enabled the rapid identification of process changes that improved matters immediately, including a meeting for preliminary screening, introduction of common tools, testing of efficiency, training courses on all aspects of the process, and an electronic signature process. The process cycle time was cut by 30 per cent, thus over-achieving against the target.