From the Publisher - 3/1/2007

After yet another unfortunate delay and some squabbling among unions and high government officials, Airbus finally got its Power8 restructuring plan off the ground on Feb. 28 with the announcement of 10,000 job cuts and major changes in where and how existing and new planes will be built. The long-awaited proposal

After yet another unfortunate delay and some squabbling among unions and high government officials, Airbus finally got its Power8 restructuring plan off the ground on Feb. 28 with the announcement of 10,000 job cuts and major changes in where and how existing and new planes will be built. The long-awaited proposal already has been revised several times in an attempt to save the company billions of euros by improving efficiency, cutting redundancy, outsourcing part fabrication and eliminating jobs.

Devising a solid plan to turn a large high-tech company around is never easy, but the problems presented by the very structure of EADS — a consortium of companies in France, Germany, Spain and Italy, with controlling interest shared between France and Germany — are, if not insurmountable, surely daunting. The consortium has enjoyed large government support. In fact, the French government and Paris-based Lagardere hold a 22.5 percent stake, matched by Germany’s DaimlerChrysler. Not only are jobs and technological expertise at stake, but national pride as well!

In addition to job cuts and assembly line reshuffling, it appears that the more technologically advanced A380 and coming A350 XWB will be assembled in French facilities, while plants in Germany that already build the A320 will be building even more. One can see how this may not sit well with some. While the four-model A320 family, first flown commercially in 1988, is the bestseller in the Airbus inventory, it is an older series and not scheduled for an “update” until some time after the newly relaunched but yet-to-be-developed A350 goes into service. At the end of last year, Airbus announced that it is building an A320 assembly plant in China as well.

The fits and starts that Power8 went through in late February engendered the first whispers from financial analysts that Airbus’s problems could be insurmountable and that a breakup of EADS may be imminent. While I doubt this will happen, I will point out that, until 2001, EADS as we now know it did not exist. And there have been significant changes in its original structure as recently as last year when BAE sold its original 20 percent share to the parent company. Airbus is obviously a technically adept and talented aerospace company, but it will flourish only if it’s able to make the tough business decisions and initiate change that is truly in its own best interest. Sometimes, significant change is the only path to survival, and it appears that Airbus is on its way to making those hard decisions.

Speaking of change: After a two-year search, HPC has found a new home. In February, we became part of Gardner Publications Inc. As many of you know, our small media company has been solely devoted to this industry, providing information about the design and manufacture of composites. We were around during the 1990s boom and are proud to say we weathered the tough times in 2002-2003 along with the rest of you — founding the industry’s leading Web site, CompositesWorld.com, during that time. But for some time, we felt we could benefit greatly from an alliance with an anchor company that could provide the resources needed to enhance the services we provide to our customers — readers and advertisers alike. Gardner is the ideal partner. Established in 1928 with the still-thriving trade magazine Modern Machine Shop, Gardner is a multimedia business especially adept at delivering information about manufacturing technology. That was important to us. Its focus, initially, was metal products, but in recent years the company has entered the plastics market as well. With HPC and sister magazine Composites Technology, Gardner brings that expertise to the composites industry.

As we integrate our products into Gardner’s systems, a transition already proceeding seamlessly, you won’t see much immediate change. Our editorial and sales staff will remain the same, and so will HPC magazine. Any change you do see will be for the better.