[photopress:Airbus_a320.jpg,full,alignright]Europe’s aircraft manufacturer Airbus will shift the final assembly of modern commercial airliners to China to secure itself a larger share of the country’s rapidly growing and already worldwide second-largest air traffic market.
A joint venture agreement has been signed in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People with Germany’s Minister of Economy, Michael Glos in attendance.
The largest challenge for Airbus will be the training of local workers for the company’s first final assembly plant outside of Europe, which is currently being built in the port city of Tianjin, about 100 kilometers south-east of Beijing.
A project manager said with considerable truth, ‘Technically, we are starting out at ground zero’.
Some 500 Chinese employees will have to be selected, primarily mechanics, electricians, spray painters and logistics personnel. About 200 of them have already begun their training including intensive English-language lessons.
Lufthansa’s technical department will later provide aeronautics-specific training, which is to be conducted at Tianjin’s German-Chinese Vocational Training Centre.
The Chinese workers also will have to spend between 6 months and a whole year at the Airbus plants in Hamburg and Toulouse to gain practical experience alongside their European colleagues.
Production in Tianjin is planned to start a little more than one year from now, in August 2008, and 120 European employees will temporarily move to China to facilitate that launch.
The plant, adjacent to Tianjin’s airport, will be an exact replica of Hamburg’s modern final assembly facility, which specializes in short- and medium-range aircraft.
The first plane is not expected to roll off the assembly line before mid-2009, but once started, four aircraft of the model A320 should be finished each month, half the current output of the Hamburg plant.
Airbus parts will continue to be entirely produced in Hamburg, then shipped to China where only the final assembly will take place, which accounts for only 5% of the total value in terms of material and man hours.
Airbus continues to remain the preferred choice over Boeing in China.
Source: M and C
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