With forecasted sales of over 38,000 commercial planes in the pipeline over the next 20 years[1], and a recent 2.6% rise in total world military expenditure[2], there is no shortage of optimism in the aerospace industry. Yet, despite healthy order books, industry players cannot be complacent. While the expected rewards for OEMs and their suppliers are clear, they will be hard earned. Every year will become a race against the clock to deliver better-performing aircraft in ever-greater numbers.

Industry players need to both revise and accelerate their established operating models without compromising quality control and safety. To gain an edge in the market, they must rapidly integrate new technologies into existing models that will improve their industrial processes and customer experience.

In short, the biggest winners will be those who can balance ingenuity and reliability. Fast.

Ingenuity can take many forms. Better designs, lighter materials and components, smarter manufacturing processes: these can all contribute to carrying more passengers at lower costs. Increasingly, manufacturers will need to designate a maximum take-off weight, and then modify the parts to reduce component weight without compromising integrity. Engineers are already answering this call, but I believe we’re only scratching the surface of what technology such as simulators and additive layer manufacturing can do to increase efficiency, speed up processes and improve standards.

There is a huge amount of anticipation – and also growing impatience – around Industry 4.0. 2019 needs to be the year when its full potential comes into clear view. There is also huge potential for digital transformation in the industry, with untapped opportunities in data analytics and automation to save money, boost customer experiences and navigate a complex regulatory environment. The bottom line is that increased demand will push up the cost of raw materials. Firms will need to improve efficiency elsewhere – and technology will provide many of the answers.

Time to chase new records

Meanwhile, for technology firms, the pressure is growing to rethink what’s possible. At Expleo, we believe this need for rapid change calls for a new breed of technology partner that can offer both engineering expertise and management consultancy skills to deliver effective transformation throughout the product lifecycle. We are ready to rise to that challenge.

Our clients are looking for partners that can develop new operating models which are more reliable, more competitive, more agile, and add more value to their business. We are helping them to accelerate innovation all along the supply chain, through both the smart use of new technologies and the cross-fertilisation of best practices from other industrial sectors such as automotive.

Retain the human connection

Despite the focus on machine learning, automation, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, none of this innovation is possible without bright human minds to develop it. In the coming months, we will hopefully see the ramping up of training and education to fill the specialist skills gap that threatens to swallow up the current optimism for long-term growth. For IT transformation, companies must also look to recruit software and hardware experts from outside of the traditional aerospace engineering pool.

Ingenuity can also reveal itself in strategic decision making. The size of global supply chains, combined with the volume of work, will push collaboration to the top of CEOs’ priority lists. Those organisations that can make the best new partnerships and strengthen existing alliances will gain scope and agility to meet the growing demand and changing needs of customers.

Decisions about geography are another source of competitive advantage. Finding the right balance of strong domestic presence, R&D centres, as well as strategic best-shoring, will earn cost and innovation dividends. The potential tension surrounding international tariffs on raw materials will also make location a primary consideration.

Calculating the benefits of reliability

The counterbalance to ingenuity is reliability – and it can also make a sizeable contribution to competitiveness. This goes much further than the non-negotiable need for safety. Improved manufacturing processes and project management, for example, will make savings on STV (Standard Time Value) by eradicating production bottlenecks along the assembly line.

Likewise, increased vigilance on quality issues will support OEMs’ rate readiness drive, so that production stays up to date with changes in technology, regulation and environmental legislation.

By managing non-conformance across engine programmes, OEMs can enable on-time delivery whilst maintaining product integrity and safety. Operational non-conformance management is increasingly important for achieving better turnaround times and improving quality, delivery and cost.

Visibility is another pillar for building an accountable organisation. Manufacturers need tools and methodologies to unlock knowledge and data from their processes and operations, in order to increase production efficiency. They can then reduce costs from nose to tail and across the whole life cycle.

OEMs and their suppliers will need to make bold decisions to keep up with growing demand. But with the right combination of ingenuity and reliability, the gap between the pace of change and the need for change will quickly close.

For more information, please see the 2019 Expleo Aeronautics trend report here.

[1] https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/market/global-market-forecast.html
[2] The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (increase from 2017 to 2018)

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