Astrium: On-Time On-Cost Improvement


EADS Astrium at CASA-Espacio focused one of its improvement projects on the process of commercialising the company’s reflectors, components used in telecommunications satellites. The objective was to gain competitive advantage by reducing lead times and production costs in order to become more competitive and gain market share. This required a review of the entire end-to-end process from engineering to production. At the start of the project the standard delivery time stood at approximately 15 months and the production costs needed a major reduction.


The team adopted a structured methodology for problem solving that is represented by the acronym “DRIVER” (see table). After creating a clear definition of the problem and spending necessary time briefing the key stakeholders, the team used Pareto analysis to identify the dimensions of the problem that created the most impact on costs and lead times. They then used a technique for cause and effect analysis to identify the root causes of excess cost and lead time, focussing on areas of wasted time and effort.

DefineDefine the scope and goals of the improvement project in terms of customer and/or business requirements and the process that delivers these requirements
ReviewMap the ‘as-is’ process and measure the current process performance to understand the ‘value-add’
Investigate       Analyse the gap between the current and desired performance, prioritise problems and identify root causes of problems
VerifyGenerate the improvement solutions to fix the problems and prevent them from reoccurring so that the required financial and other performance goals are met
ExecuteThis phase involves implementing the improved process in a way that “holds the gains”.  Standards of operation will be documented in management systems and standards of performance established using techniques such as SPC
ReinforceCapitalise the improvement by ‘learning the lessons’ and establishing process re-assessment for continuous improvement


Once a number of improvement ideas were generated, they spent time evaluating the proposed solutions to identify high priority actions that would give the quickest and highest return on the investment required to effect the improvements. First they looked at rapid improvements at no further cost – the quick wins. These included recycling of production moulds, made of very expensive material and the re-use of transport containers. This was followed by a number of short term measures involving certain development costs, including:

  • redesigning all engineering documents and plans in order to create standard templates that reduced development time
  • creating bespoke software to reduce analysis time
  • eliminating sequential installation of whole assemblies in favour of parallel installation of two sub-assemblies
  • introducing various automated processes
  • in-sourcing a painting process thereby reducing what could amount to a month of elapsed lead time


By the end of the project the improvement team had managed to reduce the delivery time to 17 weeks, increase productivity by 26 per cent and satisfy a greater demand volume with the same resources. As a result of all the improvements, they saved 66,000 euros per reflector which amounts to 462,000 euros per year – all the development costs were recovered within a year. The team found that following the DRIVER improvement methodology forced them to make decisions on real data which gave more consolidated results. They now feel they have a set of solutions and ideas which will be used in future projects.