Airbus Company’s Operations Management and Systems

Assess the role of systems and operations management at Airbus and its integration within the business

Organizations consist of various departments, which are semi-autonomous and depend upon each other for the organization to function smoothly, since the output of one department (for instance, the research and design department) can often be used as the input of another department (for instance, the manufacturing department),(Wheelen & Hunger 2002, 304). Thus, organizational leaders must stimulate a culture that allows these systems to peacefully coexist and integrate their activities so that the organization can operate with the highest possible level of efficiency. Operation management practices within an organization usually aim to pull these different systems/functional areas together and integrate them to make production/assembly of Aircraft in Airbus and other business activities highly accurate and efficient (Hakes 2008, 98).

For operation management activities and project management activities to run smoothly and efficiently within various organization systems, it is thus vital to ensure that all organizational processes are well defined, and occur orderly having the consumer and other stakeholders in mind (Koontz & Weihrich 2009, 162-186). The case of Airbus makes it clear and apparent those business activities that are carried out in the process of manufacturing A380 and A3809 lack integration and this has brought a lot of chaos and inefficiency affecting production. Considering the input-output model all activities conducted in the process of manufacturing Airbus aircraft between Britain, Germany and France are interdependent and consequently, the output of every country is very important to succeeding production activities in other departments/systems (Teece 2008, 103-117).

Knowing that the systems within Airbus are interdependent and open it is usually required that a cooperative culture is put in place so that a real-time healthy communication system is put in place to ensure a smooth flow of production and execution of other key business opportunities (Goodstein et al 1993, 179). The current absence of integration of various manufacturing and assembly processes within Airbus has proved detrimental towards achieving the goals of the aircraft manufacturer. Poor production management and project management systems have led to manufacturing chaos, but if the organization embraced production management systems efficiently then business process mapping and flow of business processes would have improved efficiency and quality of output (Slack 2010, 116).

Operations management and Project management are disciplines that allow companies such as Airbus to successfully plan organize and execute production activities with a high degree of accuracy while at the same time optimizing resources (Hedley 2002, 216). If the manufacturing of wings, cables, and other components of Airbus was correctly tackled irrespective of the long distances between the assembly points using critical path analysis and superior planning as a part of their business mapping process, then the assembly process would be more harmonized to achieve higher levels of efficiency. Current operations within the organization are fragmented and thus there is a lack of proper coordination and communication that has resulted in a loss of time (Steiner 1997, 203-210)

A poor operation management scheme currently in Airbus has made it possible for lean manufacturing not to occur and thus a lot of resources are lost due to duplication of activities and conflict between various systems due to issues such as incompatible software that has compromised production and assembly of aircraft (Johnson, Scholes & Whittington, 2008. 56-62). If a business mapping process was put in place and industrial engineering techniques were incorporated in the process of production then the roles of German and French workers would have been well designed from the beginning (Koontz & Weihrich 2009, 43-46) Consequently the unhealthy Rivalry and competition between the departments which is dangerous for the organization would have been avoided by improving how tasks are assigned.

A poor strategic framework has made it next to impossible for Airbus to successfully merge its corporate, business, and functional strategy. The company’s business officials on the board have dates of release set but these, dates seem to conflict with the way the other arms of the organization operate. Airbus competes with Boeing and it is, therefore, necessary that the strategic culture that is in harmony irrespective of the hierarchy to which the strategy belongs to in the organization (Sinkovics & Ghauri 2009, 240-251). Business and functional areas also are quite competitive and good in timing and therefore despite being at a lower level in the hierarchy should complement corporate strategy. The fact that the senior management and other functional areas are working on two different timelines and have often failed to deliver is a symptom that the organization is facing trouble as far as operations management and strategic management is concerned (Johnson, Scholes & Whittington, 2008. 16-32). It will therefore be advisable if the organization is to integrate all levels of the hierarchy of strategy and make decisions after consulting with each department and coming up with a more realistic time frame.

If organizational units exist as functional areas or as departments then the whole organization must work together collaboratively for success to be realized (Drucker 2006, 88). Airbus needs to integrate the functions of each system because systems are highly interdependent and the success of one department will most likely determine the nature of output that another department comes up with (Kourdi 2009, 23-32). Integration can therefore be achieved through critical planning which can be achieved through business mapping that will assist in clarifying the role to be played by each department and avoid conflicts and rivalries that may occur due to duplication of business processes.

Explain how the Airbus information systems and operations management should be updated to support and improve their business efficiency

Communication is a very important part of business especially when an organization happens to operate on a multinational scale such as is the case with Airbus (Drucker 2006, 102-113). Airbus has its factories and manufacturing plants spread all over Europe and therefore this makes it essential that every functional area who are part of manufacturing to communicate with each other due to the complex nature of assembling large Aircraft. Aircraft parts are usually delicate and often redesign is required so that safer parts are used in the final assembly of aircraft such as the A 380 and A 3809 (Hakes 2008, 111-131). Thus, if the numerous production plants/departments and vendors of these parts such as Rolls-Royce do not communicate then assembly may be compromised and the quality of aircraft will be poor. Following the events in the plants, operations in Germany and France suffer due to a poor communication system that is partly responsible for delays and rigid business processes. The soft systems approach has been in use for over 30 years and is normally used to handle real-world challenging business situations (Mahadevan 2005, 144-162).

The soft systems approach can assist Airbus to identify why its business model and operation management strategy are compromised and how comes various systems or departments are not communicating effectively to achieve desired business targets (Porter 1985, 117). The Soft System Approach (SSM) can identify problems and formulate relevant solutions within relevant systems. But for SSM to be successfully used stakeholders must be taken into consideration while identifying the problem and formulating solutions. The acronym CATWOE (Clients, Actors, and Transformation, Worldview, owner and Environmental constraints) is normally used hand in hand with the Soft Systems Approach to solve organizational problems (Mahadevan 2005, 150-154). Instances of poor culture, psychological problems, and social issues are usually the real cause behind the problem.

Airbus staff conflicts and this fact does not make any sense as they all belong to one organization and the failure of the entire organization is the failure of all departments and all systems within the organization. The culture of rivalry has made it impossible for departments to coordinate activities and communicate and therefore affected the quality of output. Every stakeholder represented in this acronym, therefore, has his/her demands as far as the Airbus is concerned and is, therefore, necessary to Airbus develops an information system that s comprehensive enough to address their needs with a high degree of efficiency (Teece 2008, 56). Poor communication and coordination systems can be seen in the use of different incompatible system software’s for manufacturing cables that led to delays in the previous production schedule, the output being two different cables with varying specifications and the loss of resources(Drucker 2006, 244; Hamel & Prahalad 1994, 109).

A well-mapped business process ensures that all information requirements are dispatched to relevant departments before even production occurs (Slack 2010, 139). However, in this case, a fragmented management system and poor coordination have made it hard for information to flow through Airbus as an organization thereby paralyzing operations in some instances. Thereby, when Airbus uses a Soft-System methodology to define the various information needs of the organization and it creates an information system that will be able to supply every department with specific information that is necessary for the process of production and assembly (Ronen & Pass 2007, 167). Constructing a good information system requires planning and is necessary for the organization because, it will empower employees in carrying out tasks that they are specifically required to carry out and avoid duplication (Porter 1998, 67).

Centralized communication will ensure that departments within Airbus especially those in France and Germany are supplied with information that is only necessary and that any form of rivalry as far as their tasks are concerned does not occur (Drucker 2006, 89). Well formulated and need-based informational systems can prioritize and categorize information more accurately and assist the topmost levels of management within Airbus to align corporate goals with business and functional areas by easily communicating their expectation to the lower levels by urging them to meet deadlines. Operation management and project management practices usually mean that business activities normally related to production and delivery occur in the right time frame (Wheelen & Hunger 2002, 313). This is normally achieved through planning using data flow programs to communicate and link up the various systems that make up the organization. Airbus must set up information systems that will help harmonize the entire organization and reduce the level of disorder that exists now within the organization (Drucker 2006, 89-98).

Evaluate the role of Soft Systems Methodology in analyzing and defining the business requirements of Airbus

The complex nature of the Airbus Aircraft requires a complex operation and a suitable management scheme that will be used to make sure that production schedules are all achieved in due time and free of defect (Drucker 2006, 44). The nature of organizational problems that are existing in Airbus can be effectively solved if a Soft Systems Approach can be used to guide the total restructuring of operation management in Airbus. The need of changing the current organizational design, information systems, general problem-solving techniques, evaluation performance systems, organizational education, and overall organizational coordination is vital (Slack 2010 212). Entering the problem situation and expressing the problem situation through understanding its symptoms, formulating root definitions of relevant systems, constructing Conceptual Models of Human Activity Systems, and comparing the models with the real world are often activities encountered in SSM. Additionally, effecting modifications that are sought-after and feasible, and taking action to improve the real-world situation is part of the Soft System methodology of solving a wide range of organizational problems and forming a healthier organization (Porter 1998, 104).

A poor company culture, coupled with poor production/manufacturing planning and deficient production execution systems has led to delayed delivery of the A 380 and A3809. Additionally, the fact that the topmost management has in the past shown their incompetence through poor accountability and leadership and have been unable to stimulate a good culture upon their works and these have led to loss and wastage of resources (Felkins 1993, 75). Mario Heinen who runs the fuselage cross border division in Airbus has made it clear that production activities within the company are not streamlined thus a lot of overcrowding and time wastage has occurred (Slack 2010 212). Using a soft systems methodology to identify problems within various organizations while other principles of operations management such as management science, operations research, systems engineering, and manufacturing engineering can appropriately introduce the right changes needed (Johnson, Scholes & Whittington 2008, 72-81; Trott 2008, 98).

Targets must be specific and well quantified and the organizational leaders should endure that these are communicated to all departments, with a top-down decomposition system into a sub-systems approach. The politicization of organizational goals thus can be subdued by introducing a more healthy organizational culture that will help the organization separate business and politics. Directors of Airbus should also consider using public relations officers to handle any issues rather than suppressing news because stakeholders often become anxious in regards to business and some displeasing them may often result be detrimental to the reputation of the organization ( Steiner 1997, 134-138).

Additionally, a more clear operation management workflow chart should be constructed giving clear information as to which roles each individual should play in the manufacturing and assembly processes. Business mapping processes together with flowcharts will hence enable time to be saved and will even call for more responsibility as far as the production and assembly of Airbus aircraft is concerned. The current do it yourself culture is a dangerous culture because building an aircraft that is as complex as A380 synergy to be gathered from each department and this can only be achieved by working together and developing a culture of consultancy between the various departments of Airbus as an organization (Slack 2010 212). Flow charts and mapping will consequently streamline assembly line activities and tie a timeline that can more easily be adhered to by workers of Airbus. The introduction of continuous performance evaluation and corrective mechanisms to guide the operations management is also necessary.

It appears that it might have taken longer than usual to discover that there was a software incompatibility issue that led Airbus into manufacturing different cables for A360 and A3809. If the communication and information systems were good enough to stimulate organizational coordination and communication then this mistake would have been traced earlier and thus no further wastage would have occurred (Steiner 1997, 158). Organizational structure changes within Airbus are also essential because the current system is fragmented and has contributed to the ability of Britain, France and Germany divisions to run smoothly together (Koontz & Weihrich 2009, 111-119). Moreover, improving on the organization will also improve on management and accountability because individuals’ roles will also be well defined with less conflict and duplication of roles (Drucker 2006, 67). In summary, a whole overhaul of the entire organization must be conducted carefully and even a new cooperative set of culture that is more people-based be introduced to change the way of handling production and assembly in Airbus.

Analyze the people, technology, and organizational issues involved in improving the operations at Airbus

The efficiency of an organization usually depends on how management can utilize resources within the organization to achieve organizational goals within the expected time frame. Thus, are sometimes weaknesses in technology, organization, and the relationship between the stakeholders usually have a toll on how well the organization can meet its objectives (Drucker 2006, 212). Airbus needs to coordinate and centralize its information systems using the latest technology that will allow employees on factory floors to access all information about production and assembly specifics at the click of the button (Ronen & Pass 2007, 124-132). Information is knowledge is power an empowered employee is a motivated employee who knows what he/she is doing with a high degree of accuracy thus increasing the quality and quantity of output within every system and sub-system (Deal & Kennedy 2000, 156). As a result, Airbus should make sure that the flow of information within the organization is activated within the organization by merging information systems with technologies such as Electronic Data Interchanges. Electronic Data Interchanges (EDI) can be programmed in such a way that all components specifics which are to be used in the process of assembling aircraft are stored in a centralized system and always ready for use by other departments that have clearance (Hutchins 1997, 233).

The use of superior statistical models that can assemble with accuracies of up to 99% are becoming more and more common in complex assembly processes (Ronen & Pass 2007, 212). Human beings are prone to errors and therefore are more likely to blunder and deliver less effective products if the production process is very complex. Airbus should therefore look into maximizing the use of technology and machinery in its assembly line and reduce those processes which are handled by human beings. Industrial engineering is a discipline that emphasizes streamlining production through other disciplines such as management science, financial engineering, engineering management, supply chain management, process engineering, operations research, cost and value engineering, quality engineering, facilities planning (Hakes 2008, 76-82). Using industrial engineering techniques quality of output within various systems and subsystems can be achieved.

The current level of Organization within Airbus is chaotic, the organizational culture is poor and these have affected the level of output of various departments (Ronen & Pass 2007, 99). A good organizational system is necessary for management practices and therefore when an organization is chaotic then it becomes hard for departmental leaders to plan, control, and direct activities within the organization to a satisfactory level. Changing an organization would often mean changing the methods of management and leadership and this can be achieved by injecting new blood of managers into the organization or organizing top-down training or education programs that will enable the workforce in Airbus to embrace organizational change (Koontz & Weihrich 2009, 122-128). Due to the high level of delicateness and challenges associated with assembling large aircraft, it is necessary to centralize the power of various departments that perform almost similar and interdependent processes such as those creating the wiring to manage rivalry and enforce order thought the organization.

Airbus employees should know that they are part of one organization and that their failures and efficiencies will be reflected in the output of Airbus (Porter 1998, 33). The human resource department should come up with an internal campaign banning any form of the rivalry of competitiveness that is more likely to injure Airbus’s performance. Moreover, a culture of openness and sharing of information between various departments and countries should be fostered within the organization so that sequential and serial activities can occur as planned without necessary duplication. The ability of departments to exist together in harmony can be archived by appointing strong departmental heads and training them on the importance of healthy relationships between various functional areas (Bovey & Hede 2001, 544).

In conclusion, it is vital to ensure that applying the latest type of technology can improve how business activities and operation management within Airbus occur and make them more efficient. It is with the same zeal that relationships within various organizational departments and having a good organizational culture important to the success of Airbus.


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