Aircraft builders often construct mockups for marketing purposes. This life-size mockup of the Bombardier CSeries 100 has an entirely different purpose–one that is critical to the new single-aisle airliner meeting its entry-into-service deadline, planned for the end of 2013. Its role is to uncover the inevitable kinks in the assembly process and, as a result, reduce the learning curve typical with the introduction of a new aircraft model by as much as 50 percent.
Built and housed in Bombardier’s complete integrated aircraft system test area (Ciastra) at the OEM’s Mirabel Airport facility north of Montreal, the mockup will help production-line workers and engineers determine the best ways to quickly and safely assemble the new CS100 and CS300 airliners. To jumpstart the project, the company selected some 45 employees, all of whom had previously offered the most suggestions on how to improve their jobs, to work on the mockup and find answers to the question, “What can we learn about the assembly process before doing it on the real aircraft?” explained Francois Minville, vice president of manufacturing for the CSeries.
“We identified about 150 areas to study,” Minville said. “Our target for this year is to find 1,000 things that can be improved. We’ve already found more than 600” as of mid-June. The focus is on the sequence of the work, the standard of the work and the health and safety of the employees.
“This is the biggest airplane that Bombardier has ever built,” Minville said proudly, adding that it is the first time the company has used a wooden mockup in this role. “You can’t put a cost on it.”
But you can put a value on it.
If the wooden mockup and numerous other aspects of Bombardier’s overall plan to reduce the time needed to design, develop, test, validate, certify and manufacture the new CSeries aircraft are successful, the payoff will be in the delivery of aircraft to customers on time and at a much lower cost than if the project were delayed by frequent assembly-line slowdowns. This will also be a good incentive for current and to customers to order more airplanes from Bombardier in the future.