"We are focusing on developing composite solutions which are more complete, so that we can replace several metallic parts with one composite part, which saves on production costs as well as weight within the aircraft."
Can we have a brief introduction to Duqueine and its offering to the aerospace industry in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes?
The Duqueine Group was created in 1982, and today has a turnover of €85 million, more than 800 employees, and sites in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Nantes, Romania and Mexico. It specializes in the development and production of composite parts, and around 80-90% of its turnover is generated by the aerospace industry, for customers such as Airbus and Safran.
How is the Duqueine Group incorporating Industry 4.0 into its processes?
We have been working to incorporate lean manufacturing techniques into our processes, however we still have a lot more work to do and many more challenges to overcome before Industry 4.0 is fully incorporated into our production. We are very committed to achieving this goal and have employed a full-time staff member to focus exclusively on the area.
The composite materials market is a very new business sector compared to the metallic material market, so in terms of industrialization and automation it is natural that we are slightly behind.
The aerospace industry is shifting towards smaller, narrower, and lighter aircrafts and there has been an increase in the use of composite materials. What are examples of some composite parts that Duqueine is producing for aerospace applications?
We are currently focused on developing a fuselage frame from composite materials. For 100 years, the fuselage frames for aircraft were made from metal and so we had to work hard to develop the process of creating fuselage parts from composite materials instead, focusing on creating a high standard and mechanical resistance of the parts.
We have been helping Airbus switch from using from metallic materials to composites, assisting them with design changes and manufacturing logistics.
How does the use of composite materials compare to metal materials in terms of environmental sustainability?
We have a dedicated department working on our Corporate Social Responsibility strategy, because it is very important to us. One major problem we are facing is that it is currently impossible for us to recycle the raw materials that we are using and to responsibly dispose of our production waste. We are working in collaboration with our suppliers to try to solve this problem, but we are not yet near a solution.
In the future, our customers will face the challenge of disposing of old composite materials, which are also non-recyclable. While in the short term, composite materials are good for the environment because they enable the production of lighter airplanes that consume less fuel and emit less C02, there needs to be more work done to ensure that they are disposed of in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner in the future.
What is Duqueine’s strategy for the next 3-5 years?
The main strategy is to increase our turnover by improving and expanding our product ranges. We are focusing on developing composite solutions which are more complete, so that we can replace several metallic parts with one composite part, which saves on production costs as well as weight within the aircraft.
We would like to further diversify our customer base, perhaps by working with Boeing or Bombardier. We also want to develop our relationship with Airbus, working on incremental development of composite and metal parts.
We are aiming to keep the majority of our processes within France, however, because our customers are always pushing us to lower our prices, we will be developing our Romanian and Mexican plants. We also want to work on bringing our prices down by establishing a stronger and more stable supply chain for our raw materials.
Finally, we are also focusing on external growth and are currently reviewing other companies for potential acquisitions. These companies are not limited to the aerospace industry: although it remains our primary focus, we are also looking to expand our presence in the premium automotive market.