IMO those 6 words provide the most excellent and to-the-point summary !
Because I think the organization mess was precisely the point ; the CATIA versions issue was only a consequence of this mess, but as it is the most illustrative and easy to understand, it is the best known problem.
The main thing to remember is that the Airbus building the A380 was fundamentally different to the Airbus that starting designing it. Since 2001, Airbus is a single company, and that's how we all see it. But before 2001, "Airbus" was a loose association of several state-sponsored national aerospace champions, each working for their own interests within the frame of a French legal entity called "Groupement d'Interet Economique".
Each of these separate companies forming Airbus had their own processes and tools : requirements tools, design tools, simulation tools, testing tools, IT
equipment (simple example : for the OS
, use Windows or Linux ?), etc...
For wirings, I'm guessing you would need a tool chain looking like :
- tool(s) for requirement (like DOORS)
- tool(s) to functionally design the equipment (like the old SAO, or now SCADE, used to design Airbus flight control systems)
- tool(s) to physically design the equipment (that would be CATIA or similar)
- tool(s) to functionally design the wiring between said-equipment, and all the associated connectors, relays etc...
- tool(s) to physically design the wiring
- tool(s) to test the designs
- tool(s) to test the produced harness
- tool(s) to test the entire system equipment + wiring
- tool(s) to manage the configuration of all components
- tool(s) to manage change requests from all the stakeholders
- tool(s) for PLM to oversee all of the above
and that's just the parts I can think of off the top of my head. You always have several choices for each tool, so each company would have its own tool chains and usage practices to suit it's own needs and interests. And the resulting processes & tool chains are not things you can change overnight. Especially if there are also national & cultural aspects involved, as there were (and are) here.
You could easily imagine that if you have no unified management of all those tools, there is a good chance there is going to be a screw up. Especially if the end-product is a highly integrated system, which is the case of airliners, and even more so of the recent designs like the A380, 787 and A350. Any little problem in one part of the design can rapidly propagate to huge proportions through the entire design.
The Airbus GIE had done very well back in the 80s when designing the A320 & A330/A340, as these aircraft have less tightly integrated systems and were designed with more "manual" methods. The A380 was for Airbus the first design of the computer age, with much more coupling between systems, and many more computer tools to assist the development.
And as the A380 design work was being done, Airbus was trying to integrate itself as a company and had little or no unified tool management. This means either making sure everyone uses the same tool (easier said than done), or more simply "let's keep track of who is using what, analyze what problems may appear and find ways to solve those problems". Which in turn means that everyone has to be talking with everyone else to see what is happening in other parts of the company.
=> Keywords : proper communication
Ferpe's post indicates that some measures were in place, but I suspect they were far from sufficient and only worked for a time thanks to "inertia" carried over from the previous organization. That is for the technical aspect, but the same holds for the management structure as well, as the Airbus/EADS organization also "exploded" around the same time the technical problems surfaced (2005-2007). The structure in place was very inefficient, but worked well enough until actual major decisions had to be made, and everyone realized what a mess it was.
All that being said, integrating such a huge company from 4 different national champions is no easy task, and my experience shows that there is still much to be done...
But the fundamental idea is : if you work in a team, make sure you're talking with the other guys, make sure you know what they're doing and make sure they know what you are doing
(that's the hard part, because it is easy to overlook).
And that is especially true for teams dispersed in different locations, or dispersed in time (if, as in the OP's case, someone might have to take over in 20 years. I worked on a few flight simulators made before I was even born, and would have appreciated a few comments in the code to explain what the designers had done
Note that this is all based on my own experience, observations and feelings, and is my opinion only !
I did get a little carried away into a loooong post, but as I said, it's all summed up by