While the company's production capacity is more than sufficient, it has been expanding beyond its service center in Paris with facilities in Doncaster (near London); Dusseldorf, Germany; and Zurich, plus a small facility in Prague.
Aside from the composites in the TTx and some fairings and secondary structures, Cessna relies on traditional aluminum alloy materials. While the dimensions of its fuselages and wings, and the considerable customization that executive jets undergo for individual customers, has limited its application of automated riveting processes, the company has shifted to metal bonding for ribs and stringers. The transition has required a big commitment of capital and infrastructure but those costs are outweighed by improved efficiency, Thacker says.
One survival strategy was the emphasis on design-for-manufacturing processes. The shift includes co-locating engineers within the factory to support individual production models. Production improvement teams offer “rapid reaction” support on development programs.
Preproduction planning includes some traditional verification methods, such as building full-scale plywood mockups to verify Dassault Systemes' Catia software designs in terms of ergonomics and maintenance procedures.
These combinations of planning and new production methods have paid off over the past two years, Thacker says. “We've really hit our stride.”