Bundling Airplane Components on the Waterways
As the facility grew, a new way of transporting and receiving the parts was planned. To achieve its production goals, and get its passenger jets into its customers’ hands faster and more efficiently, Airbus worked closely with logistics provider DB Schenker to develop a system that would allow it to “bundle” those components and then get them to the assembly line via an area waterway (versus having to load them onto trucks).
This would all have to happen in the most logistically-efficient manner possible, and on a monthly basis. Using a new roll-on/roll-off terminal, barge, and newly-dredged section of river, Airbus would be able to use larger vessels to transfer the huge components by water.
Working with local contractors, DB Schenker also built a new pier (at the production plant) and constructed a new airplane hangar, both of which are enabling just-in-time delivery and use of the airplane parts. When the components for four complete airplanes arrive onsite every month, for example, three of them can be stored in the hangar while one airplane is immediately put into the final assembly process.
The original logistics process had been in place for three years and involved a lower vessel and a crane (for placing the aircraft components onto the vessel). Changing over to a roll-on, roll-off arrangement meant would have to Airbus switch over to using trailers or trolleys to enter—and then load or unload—the vessel.
Proximity to the Port of Mobile was another challenge, namely because the roll-on, roll-off facility is located close to the city center. To transport its huge components from the boat to the factory, Airbus needed to move them through the city. “That just wasn’t possible,” says Thierry Ramplou, Airbus Project Manager, “so when DB Schenker demonstrated its proposed barging solution, it was clear that this would be the most appropriate solution.”