Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier has announced significant changes to the Airbus organization on the eve of the ILA air show in Berlin, signaling a shift from previous centralization policies.

Bregier plans to give greater empowerment to facilities and local plants in an effort to speed up processes. Details of the initiative are to be presented to the company’s various works councils next week. The reorganization is to be implemented on Jan. 1, 2013.

“Airbus has become too big, too complex,” Bregier said at a company event in Berlin on Sept. 10. “We need to become simpler and we need to make decisions faster. This is a weakness of Airbus.”

The initiative is the first major change that Bregier has unveiled since he took the helm of Airbus in June, replacing Tom Enders. It is also somewhat of a departure from the centralization strategy that Airbus has been following since 2007. Following the disastrous production problems surrounding the A380, the company concluded that more integration and centralization was needed to avoid similar problems in the future. But Bregier believes that “once you have centralized, you can afford to relax a bit.”

The various Airbus plants are at the heart of the changes. “A plant will no longer be a plant, but a business unit,” Bregier explains. The heads of the various Airbus facilities will be empowered to act within their given budgets and without moving away from common standards or the common IT infrastructure, the lack of which has been a root cause of the A380 production problems.

Bregier says that facility heads will in the future be allowed to allocate engineering resources at their own discretion within the given frame, whereas now any shift of manpower would require agreement by several company-wide departments.

“With Airbus’ current decision making process, you can easily lose 3-6 months,” Bregier complains. The changes are intended to smooth routine operations and change the management of legacy programs in particular, but they are also intended as a change in company culture. “We want to recreate the sense of operating as multifunctional teams on a local level,” Bregier says.