In a previous post I made an introduction of the concept of learning curve and the gains that can be achieved through experience, with the focus on aerospace industry.
Case in point 1
Few days ago I found an interesting blog post at Leeham News, “Lessons learned from A380, 787 benefit A350“, which discusses lessons learned reportedly being applied into the A350 programme and includes two interesting tables. I will use one of those tables in order to show an exercise of learning curve calculation, without caring of whether the information included in the table is accurate or reflects actual lead times of A350 at Final Assembly Line (FAL). [I do not validate the information of the table despite of using it for an intellectual exercise.]
If we take the lead times reported by Leeham News in the table above, we can calculate to what learning curve profile would those lead times correspond. See the result in the graphic below:
The information reported by Leeham News corresponds to a learning curve between 85% and 90%, about 88%. If figures resemble the reality, between the first and second units, the learning was closer to 95%, however, between the 2nd and 3rd it improved greatly. Since the 3rd unit, the learning is more stabilized at about 88%. [Again, having made this calculation as an exercise does not validate the information taken as an input]
It is important to bear in mind the units used in this calculation are days. Days of assembly are linked to unit production costs, but not necessarily in a linear fashion, as it will depend on the labor / automation being employed in the production of each unit, which may change as production evolves. It is also important to note, that the example of learning curve calculated would refer only to assembly at FAL and not to the overall production process, from material costs, production at earlier stages of the manufacturing process, etc. The value added at FAL is but a minor percentage of the value of an airplane.
I leave for a following post a case in point 2, with the learning curve of the 787 during 2013.