Daher-Socata Strives to Meet Delivery Challenge

 - April 1, 2013, 6:00 PM
Daher-Socata makes the Airbus A350 XWB’s landing gear doors with composite materials, using automated fiber placement.

French aerostructure specialist Daher-Socata appears determined to reduce lead times in an effort to accommodate demand from OEMs. It predicts its ongoing production rate increases will contribute to a major jump in revenues, as outlined in Daher’s recently announced Performance 2017 strategic plan. Performance 2017 calls for a turnover increase from €925 million ($1.2 billion) in 2012 to €1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) in 2017. Aerospace and defense activities, under the Daher-Socata brand, account for 60 percent of the group revenues. Daher-Socata CEO Stéphane Mayer expressed confidence that growing demand from Airbus and other airframers will help the company attain its Performance 2017 goals. However, meeting delivery schedules has proved challenging.

“We are implementing a plan, following Airbus’s and other customers’ recommendations, to improve our delivery performance,” Mayer told AIN. Daher-Socata has already made significant progress over the past two years, as on-time delivery rates improved to between 95 and 97 percent, according to Mayer. “We are investing in monitoring our supply chain,” he added.

Relatively simple causes can create small crises. A supplier might experience a problem due to a wrong tool setting, or a skilled operator might call out sick.

Difficulties also sometimes arise with new technologies. For example, it took longer than expected to reach peak efficiency in producing some fasteners that the company started delivering last year for the Airbus A350. Made of thermoplastic composites, initial examples arrived at Airbus’s factory late. This year, Daher-Socata has committed to delivering fasteners, landing-gear doors, air intakes and engine pylons for five A350s.

The company has decided to move away from a previous trend in which it outsourced aerostructures work to countries with low labor costs. “Delivering on time is paramount; if your low-cost partner has problems and you have to send a go-team to solve them, the bottom line will not be that cheap,” Mayer emphasized. He cited a bad experience with Mexican production of low-pressure ducts. Nevertheless, Daher-Socata maintains suppliers and even a factory in such countries.

As part of its expansion plan, Daher-Socata aims to become a tier-one supplier for Boeing. “If I am ambitious, I say we will succeed by 2015,” Mayer said. He would also like to secure Bombardier as a customer at last, he added. While Daher-Socata hasn’t identified any particular acquisition target, a supplier that already works for Boeing or Bombardier might prove a nice fit, Mayer said.