I have to wonder if this is the first completely digital plane Airbus has done. Perhaps it may explain all the bad management. The other planes in its stable share a common flight deck so the wiring just has to be similar. I have not been able to look at the wire diagrams so I don't know.
Boeing did their first all digital plane, the 777, but we started very slowly with the CATIA software in 1984 and did a number of pilot projects, like the engines on the 737-400 before ever attempting full scale production, and then ever so slowly. We learned a lot of things about digital design specifically using the French product CATIA. I must have written volumes on the subject. Some important things I can actually still remember:
1) The wiring features in CATIA were poor at best and Dassault had no plans to spend a lot of money on specialized wiring software for just one user (Boeing). Wires are difficult to program and design in 3D because they are essentially a 2D
entity developed for a 3D environment. You go from 3D to 2D
for manufacturing, and then back to 3D. It's not easy to conceptualize or even program and it’s way different from CATIA tubing, which did work well.
2) Hard parts tend to work well in CATIA. Any version of CATIA can handle hard parts. Inches are inches and MMs are MMs and any hard part designed in one version of CATIA will fit into parts and assemblies designed in another version of CATIA as long as standard geometry is used. The trouble is engineers get cute and used weird formulas for their wireframe definitions. But this is all a matter of the guidelines that management must set up, and often management does not know the difference between a wireframe and second base. Unrestricted use of any CAD system can result in bad data.
3) Configuration control is extremely important, especially with imaginative and resourceful engineers, much more so than with manual drawings where a dimension is a dimension and a line is a line and a fillet is a fillet. Engineers love to copy stuff and get release CATIA models (drawings) confused with non-released drawings. Engineers also love to use weird formulas to define their surfaces. So beware of the inspired engineer.
It became obvious to us at Boeing around 1986 that we could not accomplish the wiring on CATIA with the existing software, nor was there any prospect in the near or distant future that Dassault was willing or able to invest in such specialized software. So we used our old WIRS system on the 777 with satisfactory results. We became very good at “workarounds”.
Since my strong interest at the time was in 3D wiring, I got heavily involved in a project called ASGR in 1985 that attempted to do just that: 3D wiring. The project was moderately successful but pointed out many problems inherent in this application (isolation, drip loops, current, voltage, etc.). It was a horrible nightmare. I strongly suggested afterwards to the company that the specialized wiring required in airplane design was not available in CATIA or anywhere else, and should not be considered for future CAD design.
Digital use of CATIA for hard parts on the 777 was quite successful but way over budget, and, thankfully, we never attempted to do 3D wiring on CATIA.
I don’t think that Airbus made any serious mistake using different versions of software for hard parts. That is merely an excuse but it does make good news reporting since people can understand it. But the underlying cause of Airbus troubles is that they did not understand the nature of 3D wiring. Their big mistake was to assume that CATIA could do wiring. Dassault did not have the resources nor the will to do it 30 years ago and I don’t think they have it today.