Farnborough Airshow agenda: the biggest aerospace challenges and how to solve them

July 8, 2014
Most of the difficult challenges with building airplanes are well known, such as delivering them to market faster at lower costs, yet the solutions to them continue to be elusive or insufficient. In fact, well publicized delays in delivering major aircraft models to market have cost the industry billions of dollars.
By John Schmidt

Most of the difficult challenges with building airplanes are well known, such as delivering them to market faster at lower costs, yet the solutions to them continue to be elusive or insufficient. In fact, well publicized delays in delivering major aircraft models to market have cost the industry billions of dollars.

A new Accenture report, titled “Accenture Product Lifecycle Management In Aerospace and Defense Survey 2014,” found widespread awareness of these challenges yet a lack of effective solutions. Aerospace and defense executive respondents revealed, however, that advances in product lifecycle management (PLM), analytics, and software are making the potential for solutions to these challenges more possible than ever before, and widespread collaboration among all suppliers will be key to success. This will be an important theme to watch at the upcoming Farnborough International Airshow starting 14 July 2014.

PLM processes, used in engineering, supply chain, manufacturing, services, and marketing functions, focus on accelerating product deliveries, improving global collaboration among suppliers, and more effectively integrating manufacturing and servicing within product engineering.

Accenture’s survey polled aerospace and defense engineering executives involved in PLM in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Executives were asked about their PLM strategies and capabilities in commercial, military, engine manufacturing, defense electronics, and major subsystems. Participants represented companies that generate more than 50 percent of the industry’s global revenues.

One of the major findings was this: Aerospace companies know they need to collaborate more with each other in supply chain, engineering, and manufacturing. But they are aware that now they do not do this especially well.

The survey further found that:

  • 77 percent say they would benefit by improving their engineering and manufacturing design collaboration with suppliers using PLM processes;
  • 79 percent did not give themselves the highest possible rating for design collaboration with suppliers using PLM;
  • 84 percent said they could improve their businesses by boosting collaboration between services and design engineering; and,
  • the PLM challenges cited most often for engineering and design functions were the absence of a single system of record (45 percent) and lack of integration between different engineering functions (39 percent).

Clearly, executives want to take full advantage of PLM’s competitive advantages—but they are grappling with how to do so. More work needs to be done. More than ever, PLM needs to be a key strategic priority because of its potential to dramatically lower costs and increase revenues.

Respondents revealed that one particularly pressing need is for more high-quality PLM data. While 84 percent of manufacturing functions now have access to PLM data, 90 percent want more or better information than they now have.

Use of analytics is becoming much more widespread and central to the strategies of aerospace and defense companies. Farnborough will raise lots of questions about how the industry can better use analytics. The survey offers evidence of this, finding that nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of respondents have plans to broaden their use of analytics or business intelligence capabilities to maximize PLM’s benefits. Unlocking corporate data and insights using analytics can be especially powerful for improving and accelerating program management decisions throughout engineering and manufacturing. Analytics can also reduce over-engineering and generate new revenue streams.

Another big industry challenge is how to integrate software with hardware, known as application lifecycle management (ALM). Three-fourths (75 percent) of surveyed executives believe it is important to integrate ALM with PLM, but more than two-thirds (68 percent) face challenges coordi­nating them. With software integration with hardware being so important, more industry collaboration is becoming more important.

Final Thoughts
If the aerospace industry wants to really break through to achieve higher profitability, revenue growth, and lower costs – and prevent the pervasive program delays in particular—it has to tackle the most difficult and challenging problems. Processes need to be seamless and digital systems more synergistic and cohesive. Overall, engineering, manufacturing, and supply chains need to be simplified, streamlined, and more efficient. At Farnborough Airshow, it will be interesting to track progress in this arena.

John Schmidt is the managing director of Accenture’s North American Aerospace and Defense business. He can be reached at [email protected].

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