Urged to produce faster, are defense manufacturers ready?

ISLANDn can’t express myself” or “we are waiting, we are in a political time” have explained to us in recent days several large defense industrial groups following our requests following the announcements of the main lines of the future military programming law (LPM) 2024-2030 and whose budget will be more than 400 billion euros.

The other news about them comes from the statements of the Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, who encourages them to produce more and faster in a tense geopolitical context: “Defense companies must take more risks.”

Faced with our questions, these industries especially want to wait for the law to pass through parliament and to know how it translates into programs.

In fact, while on January 20 the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron announced a budget up by 60% for the armies until 2030, he has not yet specified how it will be distributed.

Flow production to serial production

Which army will take the lead? What types of equipment will France invest heavily in? Caesar cannons or underwater drones? How about another aircraft carrier? Many questions, but one thing is certain: the big groups say they are ready to produce more. “We adapt as needed and as we have always known how to do”says one of them.

At Nexter, the famous manufacturer of the Caesar Cannon, we are told that the group is ready to change the paradigm with the transition from the current flow production model to a mass production model, but not under any conditions: “We really want to take more risks by building stocks, buying raw materials and hiring more people, but all this has a cost that we cannot bear alone as producers”.

We are told: “This requires visibility in the order plan.” An opinion shared by Kévin Martin, from the defense and industry department of the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS): “Producing more and taking risks is one thing, but there is one important factor: inventory management.”

He pursues: It would be very expensive for these companies to start with a huge increase in inventory.” To lower costs and at the same time increase production rates, the researcher suggests, for example, relocation or a synergy between large groups in ordering raw materials such as steel, titanium or metal alloys. “Consultation is very important.”

Reservists in the factories?

In this connection, since September last year, a working group has been set up under the Minister of Defense with all industrialists from the industrial and technological defense base (BITD). The latter are called upon to reflect on the way in which they can adapt their means of production to an attitude of war economy.

Finally, from the point of view of human resources, are the manufacturers prepared to recruit a lot, while the group of French land and air-land defense and security industries (GICAT) has great difficulties in recruiting? If so, with what skills?

Defense professions require unique know-how. We will not be able to open four production lines overnight. To overcome these recruitment difficulties, the consultation of BITD industrialists is thinking of using young retirees from the field or even industrial reservists.

It turns out well. During his promises to the armies, the President of the Republic announced a doubling of the number of reservists, currently 40,000.


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