In the other thread about Airbus production improvements viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1410145
, in post 118 there are some maps of TLS and XFW... if one plots the aircraft progression though the sites some of the more obvious non productive activities stand out. While the other thread talked about the A320 series, the problems are across all models and all European sites.. The A350 is rate limited by the shuttling around to incompatible buildings. The A330 had a problem of reaching a length limit caused by building size. XFW appears to have lots of space for major product lines yet they seem to be randomly locating buildings without a clear process thought (unusual for German engineering).
I would venture that several things have conspired 1) Airbus is a combination of previous small companies and in the rush to compete just made do with what they inherited. 2) Boeing had the fortune during WWII of being far from the action and learned a lot for the B-17 production. So when they tackled new buildings, although flagged for specific models, they are generic.. this allows reconfiguration based on current use. They also build hardware movement into them with serious overhead cranes.. One of the A350 production limitations is the building are too low for cranes necessitating special dollies and tractors.
Now when the uninformed blather along about "old warmed over designs" they make it sound as the planes have not significantly changed from the first line unit.. Many of the changes are not obvious, and sometimes the latest gee whiz has no market value. This it true for both companies. On of the perennial questions is how long can the market continue to expand at the current rate. Yes there are all the sales projections, however eventually there will be a limit to airspace, airport capacity, etc.. There will also be a limit on how much airlines will continue to buy the latest and ever increasing costs. So what then.. well A.net will be moaning about wing and tube design as obsolete but offering nothing that makes sense.
If either company wants to last, they need not only to design for manufacture and maintenance, but must design the factory sites for continuous flow through manufacturing/assembly with a minimum of non value added operations and reasonable robotics. (some robotics are still slower and less efficient than the old manual methods.)
Sometimes I think the airplane for airplane competition is also a waste.. do we need too manufacturers filling every niche with a limited product? I know A.neters see this a win lose war... it isn't neither company will disappear but if the believed A.net, they would soon run out of profitable product lines.
Mjoelnir.. as you noted airbus moved from being a small #4 in aircraft production, but in many ways their management are intellectually still stuck there by their own egotism and lack of a clear process.
Years ago when Airbus was first put together from pieces is other airplane manufacturers, Boeing offered them an internship process where they sent up and comers to learn the Boeing production methods. I worked with a couple of the interns. I have since heard that when they returned to Airbus they met a stone wall of "this is how we do it" and many left the company... This is a common problem when merging companies with great egos and little room to find common ground. Airbus has done well in spite of that, however the bills arrogance and unquestioned adherence past are coming due as the new boss is pointing out very publicly.