Airbus Creates Production Line Using MasterMover Electric Tugs
One of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, uses MasterMover pedestrian electric tugs as an integral part of its wing assembly plant in Broughton.
The factory, near Chester, manufactures wings for Airbus aircraft, from the company’s popular A320 to its state-of-the-art A350 XWB.
The complex manufacturing and assembly process requires fast, safe and effective transportation of components and tooling around the factory.
Wings for the A320 aircraft are currently made using aluminium but the arrival of the A350 brings with it a move towards carbon fibre composites. With either, the parts are long, awkward to handle and often heavy.
Over the past 10 years MasterMover has supplied models from the MasterTug range as a solution for moving everything from stringers (lightweight aluminium struts that secure the wing outer skin to the frame) through to complete wings for the A320. As demands on the Broughton operation have grown, so has the role for the MasterTug. Today, the tugs are also used to move support equipment including mobile working platforms, production tooling, kitting trolleys and test equipment.
Using the principle of weight transfer, electric tugs enable a single pedestrian operator to move heavy components with ease. Components can be moved in a safe and controlled manner without the need for forklift trucks or overhead cranes. This, in turn, means that Airbus is able to organise its assembly layout to suit its specific working practices without having to account for overhead cranes that only operate in one direction or forklift trucks that need wide internal road networks.
Varying sizes of MasterTug are used at Broughton, from the MT5/400 capable of moving four tonne loads to the MT20, which can tow up to 15 tonnes. They are used throughout the production process: moving parts from goods in to the production line; transporting sub-assemblies through the machining process; and handling turnover jigs so that production staff can rotate components freely and safely.
MasterTugs take their place on the flow-line production system used for final assembly of the A320 wings. One is positioned at each assembly stage and together they move the whole production line in unison. This proved to be a cost effective and highly reliable means of benefitting from flow line production techniques, which is exactly what Airbus needed with the rapidly growing demand for the smaller single aisle A320 aircraft. With a new wing completed every 11 hours, the MasterTugs have confirmed their reliability and longevity in a demanding production environment.
The expansion of MasterMover’s involvement at Airbus has been a continuous process as Hugh Freer, Sales Director, explains.
“As one department begins to use the MasterTug, their neighbours decide it will also be ideal for their purposes, and so on. The initial proposition proves itself very quickly.”