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Airbus Creates Production Line Using MasterMover Electric Tuggers

Electric tug moves aeroplane wing at Airbus

Airbus, one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, uses MasterMover pedestrian electric tuggers as an integral part of its wing assembly plant in Broughton.

The factory, near Chester, manufactures wings for Airbus aircraft. Broughton is a global center of excellence for manufacturing and delivers over 500 wing sets per year for the A320 family, A330 and A350.

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 made using aluminum but the arrival of the A350 brings with it a move towards carbon fiber composites. With either, the parts are long, awkward to handle, and often heavy.

A Long Term Relationship

Over the past 20 years, MasterMover has supplied models from the MasterTug range as a solution for moving everything from stringers (lightweight aluminum struts that secure the wing outer skin to the frame) through to complete wings. As demands on the Broughton operation have grown, so has the role of the MasterTug (and more recently our PowerSteered range). Today, the tugs are also used to move support equipment including mobile working platforms, production tooling, kitting carts, and test equipment.

Using the principle of weight transfer, electric tuggers 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 organize 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.


Applications & Use of MasterMover Electric Tuggers

Varying sizes of MasterTug are used at Broughton, from the MT5/400 (Now MT400+) capable of moving four-ton loads to the MT1500+, which can move up to 15 tons. They are used throughout the production process: moving parts from goods into the production line; transporting sub-assemblies through the machining process; and handling turnover jigs so that production staff can rotate components freely and safely.

MasterTug takes its place on the flow-line production system used for the 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 MasterTug has confirmed its reliability and longevity in a demanding production environment.

The expansion of MasterMover’s involvement at Airbus has been a continuous process as Hugh Freer, European Director, explains:

“As one department begins to use the MasterTug, their neighbors decide it will also be ideal for their purposes, and so on. The initial proposition proves itself very quickly.”

Since the initial introduction of the MasterTug, the Broughton plant has taken advantage of more advanced, innovative solutions. Most recently, we have adopted our PowerSteered remote control PS800+ MultiLink solution to move leading and trailing edges. The front of the wing (at the bottom) is called the leading edge; the back of the wing (at the top) is called the trailing edge.

PS800+ electric tugger

The PS800+ delivers effortless movement of loads weighing up to 38,000 lbs. With a wireless remote control, the operator can make precise movements from a position that maximizes safety and load visibility. MultiLink technology enables multiple PS800+ electric tuggers to work as a team, allowing a single operator to control multiple machines in synchronization.

Interested in learning more?

Interested in learning more? Contact us to discuss how electric tuggers can drive safe and efficient load movement within your industry.