In this thread:
RE: Its Official - Another A380 Delay (by Revelation Sep 23 2006 in Civil Aviation)
reply 135 by Pymgalion stated:
Airbus had a new integration software package called ACE (Airbus Concurrent Engineering) to address the config integration issues that was supposed to be full up and in use on the A380. It didn't happen. Much like the 747-400 intro raised to a whole new order of magnitude, Airbus got bit hard by the integration flu. Now you see why Airbus is going back to an earlier aircraft for Certification proving flights. The later one has lost config control and will take too long to get conformed to the Singapore baseline. So Airbus is going back to an earlier airframe to certify and then they will cert changes from that base line.
In the thread:
New A380 Delivery Schedule Released 9/29 (by PanAm_DC10 Sep 28 2006 in Civil Aviation)
in reply 77, BoomBoom quotes Bloomberg:
engineers in Germany and Spain stuck with an earlier version of Paris-based Dassault Systemes SA's Catia design software, even though the French and British offices had upgraded to Catia 5.
That meant the German teams couldn't add their design changes for the electrical wiring back into the common three- dimensional digital mockup being produced in Toulouse, Champion says. Efforts to fiddle with the software to make it compatible failed, meaning that changes to the designs in the two offices couldn't be managed and integrated in real time, he says.
The situation worsened when construction and tests of the first A380s generated demands for structural changes that would affect the wiring. The changes in configuration had to be made manually because the software tools couldn't talk to each other.
``What happened, apparently, is that there were several different design versions in use simultaneously,'' says Tecop's Weber, who says he was informed of the difficulties by contacts within Airbus's German design bureau. ``That was disastrous.''
Things are finally making sense to me. It didn't make sense to me that the same folks who have produced the whole Airbus family could not make the A380 wiring work. It does make perfect sense to me that they could not do so if the structures guys and the electrical guys are using two different versions of software that do not interoperate.
It also makes sense to me because we are finally hearing from Charles Champion. He was the wunderkind in the "Building the A380" documentary, then it seems he just disappeared when the last slip was announced, but now that he's lost his crown, he can start to talk a bit more openly about what went on. Quoting from Bloomberg:
``Attempts to have common tools failed for various reasons,'' Champion says. ``It's all about legacy: When you start to use a tool, changing tools is an enormous investment. The question is always, what is the business case to change tools?''
This echos my comments in reply 159 of the delay thread:
: Maybe the system wasn't ready in time. Maybe the thousands of employees that were supposed to use the system were not trained in time. Maybe budgets didn't allow for the cost of the software, the cost of the systems to run the software, or the cost of training the users. Maybe the schedule didn't allow time for all these things to happen. Maybe the system's performance or reliability did not scale up correctly as more users were added. Maybe the system's features were not sufficient. There's lots of ways to foul up an enterprise-wide IT project.
It's very difficult to roll out new systems in one big bang. It can be done, but if things aren't right, your whole enterprise can grind to a halt. Boeing learned this the hard way during the 737 production snafus of the '90s.
Large enterprise-wide projects like ACE are a b*tch. Corporations hate funding projects that are not tied directly to income-producing projects. They look too much like pure overhead, which of course must be kept to a minimum. Income-producing projects like A380 would love to benefit from something like ACE, but usually they don't want to fund them. Why should our project take the budget hit for something that will benefit other projects too? The squabbles over how much each project has to donate to the enterprise-wide initiative are endless. There's lots of temptation to just keep using the current systems. They don't add cost or training time, and they have a lot of inertia tied to them. After all, those old systems worked just fine in the past, right?
I am a software professional, so I'm very interested in how Airbus goes forward from here. This may be the most costly software debacle ever. I am not familiar with CATIA, so I'm wondering if others who are can chip in.
How incompatible is CATIA 5 with earlier versions? To put it into familiar terms, is it a small difference, kind of like going from Windows 2000 to Windows XP, or is it a big jump, more like going from Windows 95 to Windows 2000?
The Bloomberg article seems to imply it's a big jump, with a lot of training needed. Can anyone estimate how many hours per engineer is needed for training?
What is the recovery plan? I know it's simplistic, but can the Germans and Spaniards be brought up to CATIA 5 in a hurry? How can the program continue on if the structures guys and the electrical guys are using two different versions that do not interoperate? If you were JAA/FAA, would you certify a plane when it's so damn hard to be sure exactly what configuration the plane has? If they do not get onto the same version, will they stay with incompatible versions for the entire project?
My guess that Streiff is advocating taking the bullet in the head, getting this system integration effort over once and for all, and the EADS board is too shell shocked to buy into it, yet. But, to paraphrase Streiff, they need to become one Airbus, and they should get all the bad news out of the way right now. How else are they going to get their act together? I suspect Champion's whispering to the reporters is part of the plan to slowly let the ugly truth out. I almost wonder if that's why he was kept on, and also wonder now that he's run onto his sword, there's no more need for him.