Airbus achieved adoption of energy efficiency strategies through change management programme

The change management programme at Airbus started life as a single project but escalated to a company-wide transition to improved energy efficiency. Elsevier B.V. published this case study, in line with Cranfield University, earlier this year.

There were four clear stages that led to the new strategic approach at Airbus, and these stages in combination have led to significant bottom line savings, and a well defined company strategy.


Stage One. One of the Airbus plants recognised that improved manufacturing processes would lead directly to improved energy efficiency and improved environmental performance. Lean tools were implemented alongside Continuous Improvement methodology, which, critically, prioritised changes & improvements according to a waste hierarchy.

Stage Two. A central vision for environmental performance was created with five key criteria set against deliverables for 2020. These criteria were: energy consumption, CO2 emissions, waste production, volatile organic compound emissions, water consumption & industrial discharge. The success of the central vision led to Airbus being the first aerospace company to receive ISO14001 certification.

To drive this vision further into the manufacturing and industrial strategies, a new team was created in order to combine the communications strategy with technical – ‘shop floor’ – skills. The results achieved by the plant described in Stage One were identified as an ideal model for the rest of the business and consequently Lean & Continuous Improvement were the focus of the new strategy.

Stage Three. With a strategy in place, Airbus worked on a roadmap to ensure that there would be comprehensive implementation. The roadmap included incorporating energy efficiency into the design phases of new products and processes, using the Lean approach for process optimisation and ensuring Continuous Improvement was maintained through all stages.

Alongside the roadmap a company network was created to manage industrial energy efficiency. Projects were launched, targets set, reporting put in place and coordination between different plants was established.

Stage Four. Results were now driven throughout Airbus industrial plants. In the cases where the resource at the planning stage was available throughout the project, the predicted savings were over achieved. The only variable that affected hitting targets was the availability of resource to fulfil plans.

Across the different plants that had been involved at Airbus there had been a range of projects, including: control system optimisation, compressed air leak repair, cycle time reduction, and machine refurbishment. The key to all of the different projects was that the strategy was rolled out under the same philosophy of Lean. Lean had moved away from being solely a tool and had been wholly incorporated into the corporate strategy. Lean thinking led directly to improved energy efficiency.

Key Takeaways

  • Use work that is proven elsewhere – external to the business or from a different business unit – to champion changes within the organisation.
  • Pilot projects, then communicate successes widely.
  • Create a structure in which practitioners and leaders of change can interact. In the case of Airbus the company network for energy efficiency (Stage Three) worked very well particularly because it allowed both vertical or hierarchical relationships, and also horizontal or inter-plant relationships.
  • Alongside corporate ‘visionaries’, ensure there are ‘local’ implementers who can champion the strategy on a tactical level and make sure it is fulfilled.

Key Achievements

Airbus achieved bottom line savings after just one year of beginning to focus on energy efficiency within their business. Crucially, on top of this, energy efficiency has now gained engagement throughout the business, so changes are being sustained and savings are continuing to be realised.