Up the 1980s, the company’s corporate style was basically technical. The favorable economic context made it possible to focus on obtaining performance.
Emphasis was also placed on meeting deadlines: flying at a given date at the Bourget air show, not forgetting a meeting arranged even five years beforehand, etc.
Dassault streamlines all its sites
Given the persistence of the crisis, this corporate style changed. AMD-BA sought to include financial costs to obtain overall strict control over its programs.
The Dassault company became aware that needs were decreasing as early as 1982, and, in 1986, convinced that the crisis in the aviation industry would be durable, it began to implement a policy to rationalize all its establishments.
In view of the long-term trends in markets, AMD-BA looked into the possibilities of working on a reduced production basis. The competitive gaps due to mass production closed: the company came up against US companies that also had to scale down their production to smaller production series produced at lower rates and at competitive costs.
Optimization of the industrial tool
The aim of Serge Dassault and his staff was thus to tailor production to French orders alone while stepping up efforts to obtain ever-illusive export contracts, any additional business obtained in this way being subcontracted out.
For this purpose, the industrial tool was tailored to avoid duplication and to incorporate CAD/CAM (CATIA) brought about by the computer revolution. The optimizing of sites and associated resources made it possible to make investments in fields such as information processing, CAD/CAM, design and production facilities, new materials and any other activities affecting the aircraft manufacturer / industrial architect’s profession.
In parallel, the Company made considerable investments in composite materials and robotics. Staff were made aware of cost control, the need to seek ways of cutting costs and scheduling. The implementing of competitive engineering, the aim of which is to take into account the life cycle of a product from its design to its in-service use while complying with customer specifications, led the company to:
- reinforce its expertise as an industrial architect of complex systems;
- significantly reduce costs;
- pursue efforts towards achieving total quality.
The merging of prototype and series production design offices
A key milestone in Dassault’s reorganization was achieved through the development of CAD/CAM which improved productivity: the merging of prototype design offices (responsible for development activities) and series production design offices (responsible for industrialization activities) was an illustration of this.
The working method adopted by the Company, up to the 1960s, was to build the prototype for a new program very quickly so as to obtain flight trials results as soon as possible and make any necessary corrections before beginning industrialization. The Design Office and Prototype Workshop were tailored to such objectives.
Industrialization was undertaken, on the basis of the definition thus obtained, by the series production design office and the production plants which had closely monitored, and even partially participated in, the prototype phase.
Changes in manufacturing techniques, the complexity and scarceness of new programs, the considerable advances made in electronic modeling and the emergence of sophisticated weapons systems gradually made such an approach increasingly ill-suited.
No more prototypes
Modern tools, incorporating CAD/CAM now allowed prototypes and series production aircraft to be defined at the same time. Instead of prototypes, aircraft were now produced for the purposes of test programs, being built from components designed by CATIA and intended from the outset for series production.
These “first of class” aircraft were so similar to the final version that they could be sold to customers or kept for testing subsequent systems.
As a consequence of this development, the two offices were, from August 29, 1988 onwards, merged into a single Design Office for military aircraft and spacecraft. The independent existence of the prototype building workshop based in Saint-Cloud could thus no longer be justified and this workshop was thus transferred to, and merged with, the series production workshop of the Argenteuil production plant in 1992. The Mérignac production plant was given the same responsibilities as far as civil aircraft were concerned.
The Saint-Cloud site centralizes all main functions
This latest stage in this rationalization was to bring all the company’s main functions, previously spread over the Vélizy, Vaucresson and Saint-Cloud sites, together under the same roof on the Saint-Cloud site. This was implemented on the basis of the integrated engineering concept. This allows all staff to work together as a team and maximizes the benefits of direct communication. Since the end of 2000, the new building houses almost 1200 staff on five levels with a total floor area of 26000 m2.
The implementation of these principles has allowed AMD-BA to adapt to the market and maintain its profitability several years ahead of all other companies in the sector.
After fourteen years at the head of Dassault Aviation and having reached the statutory age, Serge Dassault put forward a motion, at the Board of Directors’ meeting of February 16, 2000, for Charles Edelstenne to be appointed as Chairman and Managing Director with effect from April 4, 2000. He would be assisted by Bruno Revellin-Falcoz who was appointed as Deputy Chairman and Managing Director. Serge Dassault has continued to serve the company’s in the capacity of Honorary Chairman and advisor to the new chairman in the same way as Marcel Dassault did with Benno-Claude Vallières.
Zoom: new name, new logo
The length of the company’s initial name “Avions Marcel Dassault – Breguet Aviation” (AMD-BA), proved to be not very practical, notably in international commercial relations, and the Board of Directors’ meeting of June 19, 1990 changed the company’s registered name to “Dassault Aviation”.
Dassault Aviation was also given a logotype selected through an in-house competition, initiated in September 1988, and which symbolizes:
- the Company’s future-looking impetus,
- the aerodynamic shape in the form of a “delta” a name which also, in the aeronautical radio code, suggests the initial D of Dassault;
- the four-leaf clover, the talisman of Marcel Dassault, the Company’s founder, and a good luck factor;
- the opening up of the delta towards new ideas, and partnerships.
Significant growth in the business jet sector
Dassault Aviation is one of the few aviation companies worldwide to combine civil and military business using the same workforces.
This allows it to give business aircraft the benefit of the advanced technologies used on combat aircraft (design analysis, aerodynamic designs, flight control systems, composite materials, head-up display, etc.).
A very top-of-the-range position
The Company has targeted the top-of-the-range market segment, where its high level technology can be best capitalized upon. There are fewer competitors in this segment as the technological and financial barriers are too high. The launching of the Falcon 2000 and new versions, the Falcon 900EX and Falcon 50EX, have allowed Dassault Aviation to meet demands.
As military business is cyclic, it is essential to spread risks by taking on diversified business in the company’s range of expertise.
The aim of this is to retain and improve on its Falcon market share by reinforcing its competitive gap, notably by shortening manufacturing cycles without for all that being left with stocks of unsold aircraft.
To prepare for the way ahead in the civil field, the company has striven to define a program of demonstration of new principles providing very significant reductions in costs for a given level of performance: thermoplastic fuselage, new wing, etc.
Dassault Falcon Jet takes off
With the worldwide boom in the business aircraft market, it became apparent that there was a need to rethink the organization of the Falcon aircraft sector.
Falcon Jet Corporation, Dassault Aviation’s US subsidiary, became Dassault Falcon Jet. This change in name ratified an operational and structural change in Dassault Aviation’s business jet aircraft branch in terms of the unification and globalization of business activities.
The Little Rock site was modernized over the period 1996-1998. Its surface area doubled and the site now includes seven additional buildings including a reception building provided with office space for customers.
This enlargement has improved the organization of the Falcon aircraft customization process which has increased its production capacity to 60 aircraft a year while improving quality. In 2000, it was the largest Dassault Aviation site worldwide.
The sales in business aircraft, buoyed by the US growth, reached an exceptional level from 1997 onwards. In 1999, sales of Falcon aircraft accounted for 68% of the company’s turnover and 55% of its order book.
Changes in the military market
The economic situation of western countries and the upheavals undergone in political balances of power have considerably changed the industrial landscape of the world’s defense aviation industry.
Changes in the international context have affected the production of combat aircraft worldwide which fell from 1,800 a year (excluding the USSR and China) in 1975 to some 300 aircraft in 1993. 3000 combat aircraft are due to be replaced between 2000 and 2010.
The increase in the complexity of weapon systems means that in future, no European country will have the ability to finance a new combat aircraft program on its own. Rafale’s successor will thus be European.
A memorandum released by the ministry of Defense and by the minister for the Economy and Finance on December 23, 1992, announced closer structural co-operation between Aérospatiale and Dassault Aviation and the reinforcement in their capital in SOGEPA (Société de gestion et de participations aéronautiques), a holding company for part of the State’s share in the two groups.
Then, on February 21, 1996, the President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac, announced the effective closer co-operation between Aérospatiale and Dassault Aviation, but this was interrupted by the dissolution of the National Assembly and the coming to power of a socialist government in April 1997.
On May 14, 1998, the ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry and the Minister for Defense announced that the Government had decided to transfer to Aérospatiale the shares held directly and indirectly by the State in Dassault Aviation’s capital (45.76 %). In parallel, the Government asked Aérospatiale and Dassault Aviation to set up a strategic committee to optimize the industrial, commercial and technological resources of the two companies.
Through this closer co-operation, the government intended to promote the implementing of a concerted strategy by the French aviation industry with the prospect of the alliances that it thought would be needed to be forged quickly between the main European players to form a powerful, competitive entity.
Another release on November 10, 1998 announced that to provide for the industrial consistency of this new entity, Dassault Aviation’s assets would be changed prior to Aérospatiale taking a share in its capital: Dassault Aviation would acquire other shares in Dassault Industries in the aviation field. Its 34% share in Dassault Systèmes would be removed from the company’s assets, since, among other things, Dassault Systèmes had several large customers that were competitors of Aérospatiale.