The aerospace and defense sector is undergoing a massive shift. Aging fleets and rising demand for air travel is boosting the demand side. On the supply side, OEMs are continually innovating on the technology front to optimize their operations to improve efficiency, remain competitive, enhance profitability, and generate more value for their customers. As a result, rapid digitalization of processes and instrumentation of aircraft are on the rise.

Increasing sophistication of aircraft

Today, any given aircraft is highly instrumented and embedded with thousands of sensors that generate terabytes of data per day. This data contains valuable information related to flight performance and the environment in which they operate. Aerospace organizations can harness this data to provide solutions for aircraft health monitoring and predictive maintenance. Such solutions can spawn numerous benefits like extending equipment life, reducing replacements, fewer technicians, and unprecedented gains on quality goals.

As technology advances, new aircraft will have a higher number of sensors to capture highly sophisticated data that will be streamed in real time to all concerned. For example, a new supersized airliner capable of flying 1,000 passengers, will have 10,000 sensors in each wing. These sensors alone will generate about 7.5 Tb of data per day.[1] Such enormous amount of data, when properly analyzed could help airlines save millions on fuel costs and improve aircraft safety significantly. When coupled with right technology, this data can also help engineers understand the conditions that lead to parts failure and make critical decisions regarding design changes, production planning, supply chain operations, fleet maintenance, and more.

The need for seamless integration and flow of data

Most of the benefits above will not materialize unless the data generated is integrated and flows seamlessly across the extended enterprise. By introducing new technologies that essentially replace old mechanical practices, organizations can digitalize processes and optimize benefits. Examples include frameworks such as Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) and Industrial Internet of Things, along with technologies such as automation, big data analytics, cloud computing, and digital manufacturing. These technologies have made it possible to bind data from all the stages of an aircraft lifecycle with bi-directional feedback to create an intelligent system that minimizes human efforts.

Digitalization is the game changer

Field and service data, when fed into an integrated design system ensures that maintenance is considered from the beginning of the design process. Automated design systems have been proven to help OEMs achieve faster and more accurate prediction and optimization of system performance and cost.

With MBE, the aerospace and defense industry directly uses 3D content developed in CAD systems to manufacture new products, and to modernize almost all downstream operations like validation, process planning, service information, procurement, quality, and inspection. They are proving to be the leader of the Model Based Enterprise movement.

Another key technology advancing the digitalization initiatives is predictive analytics. Predictive analytics uses various statistical models, data mining techniques, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to analyze data, such as the weather data collected by sensors on the aircraft wings, to make future predictions about flight statuses.

A digital supply chain management platform can provide deep insights for production planning, line balancing, supplier management, and triage management based on the real-time data updates.

Digital technologies are changing every aspect of aerospace industry’s value chain to deliver optimized processes, higher quality levels, faster time-to-market, lower costs, and an improved consumer experience.

How are you digitalizing the value chain to optimize, product, process, and revenue? Share with us your experience and views here.

[1] http://www.datasciencecentral.com/profiles/blogs/that-s-data-science-airbus-puts-10-000-sensors-in-every-single

Written by Divya Agarwal

on 10 Jan 2017

Divya Agarwal is part of the Global Marketing & Communications team at QuEST Global. In her current role, she leads the integrated marketing campaigns for digital solutions, software product engineering and embedded product engineering services. In addition, she manages analyst relations and drives content marketing for building the corporate brand. An engineer and MBA by education, she follows the emerging technology trends keenly and loves to read or cook in her spare time.