Automated and Digitized Processes for the Aviation Industry

Five steps to digital transformation

Manufacturers and suppliers in the aviation and aerospace industry are responsible for products designed to transport several million people every day. Safety and quality should, therefore, be a priority in production and processing. In order to guarantee both within a seamless and transparent supply chain, including proper quality, controls are the optimal prerequisite. Valid data that can be accessed at any time is crucial at this.

Over the last 50 years, the aerospace manufacturing industry has been slower in automating its production processes compared to other sectors. Fuselages, wings, tail units, and other important aircraft components were usually installed manually. But the current rising demand for aircraft production volumes is gradually leading to increased efficiency through automation.

However, the insert of robot arms to support the workforce is not all that it needs. Rather, a shift in thinking needs to take place throughout the company in the first place, from the CEO to the assembly worker. All processes along the entire supply chain should be digitized and linked to the value chain. Only then can the resulting data be used for process optimization. But what are the essential steps towards digital transformation? And what should companies consider?

1. Reinvent your IT organization

In order to produce data and information and to use it effectively within the company, it is important that the IT system is equipped for reporting and evaluation. Over the past four decades, the companies’ most effective tool became information technology and data, as they used productivity as a strategy to maintain an edge over the competition.

2. Digital Transformation instead of Digitalization

However, this is only the beginning of real digital transformation and the so-called digital optimization phase. In order to succeed in the market, companies should go even further. At the end of the digital transformation journey, whole business models and processes along the supply chain should be optimized. Digitization is only an enabler for development.

3. Preparing employees for the digital future

Other companies have already realized the need to take their employees with them on the road to digitization. Amazon, for example, invests more than $700 million to provide 100,000 employees with new skills for the digital age by 2025.

But why is this so important? Quite simply, robots do not replace the workforce as many people suspect. They rather increase production frequencies and thus create new fields of work elsewhere. Evidently, there is a clear up-skilling opportunity where aerospace automation is concerned.

4. Link machine data with entire data sets

Another example of digitalization in the aerospace sector is the introduction of cloud platforms. By using cloud-based, open IoT operating systems such as Elemica, manufacturers can connect their suppliers, systems, and machines to collect, analyze and harness data from every area of the factory floor and the whole supply chain. Elemica, for example, digitizes transactions with all network partners, taps into modern data sources, and integrates external data to your internal systems.

Moreover, these operating systems enable aircraft manufacturers to analyze real-time digital data such as vibration indicators and quality analysis, in order to make them aware of alerts and impending faults that cannot be identified by humans. This kind of predictive maintenance allows aerospace manufacturers to spot warning signs of problems before they occur.

5. Cross-linking of all suppliers and producers via a quality management system

What is missing within many digitization initiatives is a holistic approach that digitizes the entire company across all departments, the entire production and supply chain circle, including subcontractors and suppliers, in one network. The digitalization of processes and data exchange will become more and more a matter of course over time. Those who start early with a holistic digital transformation roadmap of processes gain a decisive competitive advantage and an excellent mechanism for process improvement.