ADAM Gathers Airbus Engineers for Silicon Valley Hackathon to Accelerate Automation Solutions

Acubed’s Advanced Digital Design and Manufacturing (ADAM) team recently gathered members from across the Airbus network—spanning from Wichita to Filton, UK and Toulouse, France—at Acubed’s headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley. The challenge: to deliver an automation solution for common loads extraction for spars and ribs to the Airbus Operations team in Filton contributing to the A350 freighter (A350F). In an ambitious 10-day sprint, 11 developers, engineers and subject matter experts came together to tackle this lofty goal.

The hackathon schedule was tightly packed and began with software training sessions for upskilling on development practices and tools, such as Agile, Git, Python and VS Code, along with Acubed’s bespoke automation platform. The engineers also allocated time for coding, daily engagements with their internal customer to ensure deliverables continued to be aligned with business needs and workflow and the opportunity for networking and socializing amongst participants. The stage was set and the participants were hopeful.

When asked about the value this type of automation could potentially bring to Airbus, Stuart Peck, Airbus Americas’ Principal Stress Engineer & Applications Designer based in Wichita, Kansas, shared a past use case. “For six months before this, Acubed and Airbus Americas worked on this automation tooling for the flaps—the backside of the wing. It used to take them 12-20 weeks to run through their spreadsheets and when we finished automating it, it took 30 minutes!”

Since 2018, the ADAM team has been collaborating across Airbus to automate various stress analyses to improve efficiency, cut production lead time and ensure the highest standard in safety and reliability. ADAM has led various training sessions on the subject, partnering with sites to ensure engineers were extracting the most value out of the software and learning where tweaks needed to be made for optimal performance. Beginning with the A321XLR, which performed its first flight last month, ADAM engineers have worked hand-in-hand with airframe stress engineers in various locations around the world to identify pain points and provide a software solution that diminishes the need for monotonous, repetitive throughputs, complies with Airbus’ rigorous safety standards and keeps employees energized throughout the process.

When asked what challenges they anticipated coming into the hackathon, engineers cited the importance of quickly learning their internal customer’s current processes so they could code to mimic the workflow, while others cited the technical upskilling and alignment on the software tools that would drive this automation. Nonetheless, they were hopeful their work would result in great time savings and skillbuilding for them and their colleagues across Airbus.

“I think the exciting part of automation is the digitization process. Today we have a lot of data, and the hard part is the extraction of this data. If we do this properly, we will be able to save engineers a lot of time,” said Julien Fournier, Airbus IT Engineer based in Toulouse, France.

Fast forward two weeks. With 800 hours invested, the team walked away with multiple automated processes, new software competencies and stronger relations across Airbus. The tangible results were tremendous: 4,000+ lines of code written, ~5,000 future hours saved in automation (2.75 years in an average employee’s tenure!) and increased competencies in software development, business process modeling and definition and agile frameworks. In just two weeks, the group brought significant value and process improvements for the A350F program and immense savings potential when scaling to the larger business.

What could not be measured was the opportunity for networking and the sense of community cultivated during these two fun, albeit intense, weeks.

Timothy Thomas, ADAM’s Engineering Automation Technical Lead, noted, “The benefit of the hackathon is not just the skills the engineers will learn while they’re here, through the various training we are doing and the hands-on work. I think what they really gain from this is a sense of community, a sense of the team that is working with them - and can support them - as they do this work in their daily jobs.”

In the coming weeks, the team will continue their work in preparation for final delivery, working closely with colleagues on the ground to ensure smooth implementation.

If you’re interested in joining our team, apply here.