Visiting the Dauphin Final Assembly Line

Visiting the Dauphin Final Assembly Line: An Interview with Michel Guichard

04/09/2011 – During the SLD visit in February 2011 to the Eurocopter facilities in France, a tour was conducted of the new Dauphin Final Assembly Line (FAL).  The tour and interview was conducted with Michel Guichard, the Deputy Director of the Dauphin program.  Guichard was retiring within two weeks of conducting the interview, and his enthusiasm for the program and his wide-ranging knowledge was on display.

The last time we visited the Dauphin FAL, it was in a legacy configuration and set-up.  A single FAL team focused upon each Dauphin.  The new facility was completely revamped with a different focus on final assembly.  Now the final assembly team was configured to work on the finalization of two helos at once, which created significant gains in efficiencies.  The new production building and set up was designed with inputs from every key functional member of the team, ranging from workers, to engineers (both design and maintenance) as well as management.  The results were clearly on display when visiting the facility.

Photo Credit; Eurocopter

SLD: Could provide use with an orientation to the new FAL?

Guichard: The Dauphin FAL has been in this blue building for two years now.

SLD:    How is the process different from that followed in the old building?

Guichard: We have a new process, which is result of a long study with all workers at all levels  to determine how to improve the customization process. We work here only with helicopters which have a firm date of delivery.

SLD:   So you’ve redesigned the process to facilitate customization?

Guichard: Exactly.  And customization process needs to have a fixed station for each aircraft.  With a product which requires minimal customization, such as the Ecureuil, you can have a moving assembly line.

SLD: And is just Dauphin in this building?

Guichard: Yes we have the entire Dauphin family assembled in this building.  The process we follow is that we have a single team working on the customization of two aircraft at the same time.  We have 10 stations working on the two aircraft, and organize the workers that way.

SLD: So the workflow is organized around the 10 stations?

Guichard: Yes And everybody is working there with all connection with other parts of the factory, through a digital system.

SLD: So, the workers and angineers have a computerized database to consolidate the workflow?

Guichard: Yes. And efficiency is enhanced by having shaped an effective delivery of the parts which the workers need in a complete and targeted package of parts. All parts arrive herejust in time.  Because behind this area, we have a kind of we call it the marketplace where we prepare package of parts off the assembly to be delivered just in time to the workers. To be efficient, the workers to need to have all parts to make the package work.  And generally, before we were always some missing parts in the package.  We developed a special software for improve the ability to deliver complete work packages.

SLD:    At this particular point.

Guichard: The Dauphin has been built for more than 30 years.  And in the FAL you can see today our latest Dauphin, the EC- 155, which is an enlarged aircraft. The structure has been enlarged, longer and higher. It is now nearly as big as a Puma and has a cargo capacity greater than the S-76.

Guichard: We work on all the families of Dauphin with the same work flow and the same tools. Everything is modular and flexible enough to work on different aircraft. And also, below the FAL floor, we have shops with all the energy, hydraulic  and electricity to be provided to the workers to perform tests.  And so, we have no bench on the FAL level. For the electricity and the generator is on the ground level.

SLD: The Dauphin has been a very successful global product. Could you give us a sense of the customer base?

Guichard: India is the largest user of Dauphin in the world, for civilian purpose after U.S. Coast Guard. Other major customers are the Brazilians and the Saudis.   We have produced nearly 1,000 aircraft since the first very beginning single engine.

SLD: Another part of your production approach is close integration of engineers with the work process.

Guichard: We’re at the shop level.  And all white collar people working for that.  So, the shop administration and so on, design for customization, which just at the first level, very near the aircraft in order to have a good knowledge of the question we have.  The engineering is also here as well the same level.  And program people, program manager and customer support are located here as well. Around 250 people work in this building.

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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