The Future for Aerospace and Defense: The Digital Thread and Smart Factories

White airplane in the sky with clouds in the background. Cora systems pink an purple gradient lens lens logo in the background.

A recent Deloitte study1 into manufacturing found that;

“30% of US manufacturers surveyed reported they are currently implementing digital thread initiatives.”

That was in 2019. And that percentage will have increased even more since then, thanks to all the time the pandemic has given industry to take stock and make plans. Unsurprisingly then, the two areas that loom largest for the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) sector, according to Deloitte’s ‘2022 Aerospace and Defense Industry Outlook’2, are the digital thread and smart factories.

What is ‘digital thread’?

All products and services start out digitally, as plans or ideas. They then get made physically, bringing them into contact with people, materials, places, and processes. These interactions then get tracked digitally, and are often improved on through technology, thanks to the likes of Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality. The data around which then gets fed back into the shop, to help improve future plans and ideas.

The digital thread is the positive feedback loop that results from this back and forth between the digital and physical worlds, as a product’s data is tracked through each of the different stages of its lifecycle. Which are then improved on and speeded up, because of the way in which all that data have now been connected and made visible.

All of which is transforming the way that products are being engineered, manufactured, and serviced.

Digital thread in Aerospace & Defense

There are any number of improvements that shops in A&D are going to be looking to gain from digital thread. Broadly speaking, it gives you real-time information that’s permanently updated. Which massively improves your capacity for decision making.

Specifically, it hugely improves supply chain visibility, which will significantly help with the all-important supply chain planning and supply chain synchronization. And few manufacturing sectors will benefit as palpably from that heady mix of AI, 3D, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the promise of being able to;

“Leverage data aggregation technologies with predictive analytics, cognitive, and machine-learning capabilities to improve forecasting accuracy and predictive modelling.”2

All of which will mean you’re much better equipped to assess how your products perform for your customers, and how therefore to mold and re-imagine your aftersales services and products.

And crucially, of course, you’re constantly gathering feedback at every stage of the way.

Smart factories

Smart factories are one of the components that make the digital thread possible, connecting people, material, machines, and data, both on the factory floor and between those factories.

“Cloud-based dynamic scheduling solutions that identify where people are working, where materials are located, and the ways to synchronize them should unlock A&D factories’ potential to meet changing customer demands.”2

This will help to better match labor and non-labor resources, which will reduce costs, minimize delays and unplanned downtime, and optimize production. Which in turn will reduce waste and lower your carbon footprint.

And the advantages of being able to harness big data, advanced analytics, and machine learning on the factory floor will create its own positive feedback loop. As competitors see the benefits that result and increase their investment in the technologies that make all that possible. The revenue from which will then get fed back into those technologies, further enhancing the advantages they bring.

The challenge for A&D: Connecting and centralizing data

The biggest challenge facing the A&D sector is managing the sheer quantity of data it produces. There’s product design data, manufacturing process data, updates on supply chain data, IoT data from products in the field, and customer and client feedback data. All of which have to be analyzed, managed, and made available across departments and throughout the organization.

The way that much of that is done will be through independent, unconnected software packages. So all of those processes and disparate systems will need to be streamlined and consolidated. And the only way to do that is by finding a software solution that’s designed to centralize and coordinate all of that.

Now that the global economy is opening up again after the hiatus brought on by the pandemic, the Aerospace and Defense industry will be looking to make up for the revenue and potential revenue lost over the last two years. Fortunately, manufacturing is one of the areas that has benefited the most from the explosion of digital technologies. Especially in the A&D sector, with its inherent reliance on technological advances and innovation.

So A&D shops are going to have to think very carefully about the software system they employ internally to manage all of that data. Because it’s this that will distinguish them from their competitors and guarantee those all-important margins.

Sources

1https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/resources/ /us/articles/6276_2019-Deloitte-and-MAPI-Smart-Factory-Study/DI_2019-Deloitte-and-MAPI-Smart-Factory-Study.pdf

2 Deloitte’s “2022 Aerospace and Defense Industry Outlook”

Related Insights

A team of people having a meeting around a table discussing. Pink and purple gradient lens graphic in the background.
Feb 21 2024

What Are OKRs, and What Are Their 3 Elements?

OKRs are used extensively by everyone from Google and LinkedIn to Adobe and Spotify, and they’re made up of 3 elements. Table of Contents Objectives Key Results...
A large cargo ship carrying containers across the ocean. Pink and purple gradient lens in the background.
Feb 20 2024

Supply Chain Management: The 3 ‘P’s  

There are three areas that efficient supply chain management depends on: Physical resources and operations, Processes and People. 

Civil engineer on a site wearing a high visibility jacket looking at a construction site with a yellow crane. A pink and purple lens icon in the background.
Jan 25 2024

Document Management for Enterprise Organizations: 3 Crucial Areas

There are 3 areas where reliable document management is crucial for enterprise organizations, regardless of the industry.

Human and robot fingertips touch and lightbulb lights up.
Jan 10 2024

AI and Project Management

AI is transforming project management and is changing how PMs operate on three levels: automation, assistance and augmentation.

A man is conducting a meeting with his team in an office.
Jan 09 2024

Change Management: The Key to Digital Transformation

Successful digital transformation depends on two factors; the technology you invest in, and the change management program you devise for your workforce.

Man and a woman wearing glasses discussing work in an office. Both looking at an iPad.
Jan 03 2024

What is Earned Value Management (EVM) and How Does it Work?

Earned Value Management (EVM) is a project management methodology that enables you to integrate scope, cost and schedule.

4 people having a meeting in an office
Dec 06 2023

Project Controls: Deliver Projects on Time and Budget

Project Controls are a set tools that allow you to track costs and schedule to ensure your project comes in on time and on budget.

white TEI report book with navy background
Nov 16 2023

Forrester TEI™ Study Finds Increase in NPV of $30.05M and an ROI of 187%

Forrester’s analysis finds Cora produces efficiency gains worth $25M, improved visibility saving $6.5M, a $7M revenue boost and $4.4M in time savings.