What does it mean to make things digitally?

Being digital isn’t something you can touch. Manufacturers are very good at making tangible things. It’s just that being digital doesn’t feel real. The way we think and how we do business has changed.

The process of “being digital” and the process of making aerospace products have a lot in common. Manufacturing is a complicated process that has many variables. In the same way, the digital journey is a complicated one that takes many turns. Vision, strong leadership, and control over a huge, long-term process are all needed for manufacturing success. It also takes the same skills to complete a long-term digital transformation.

However, that’s where the two things have the same ending. Manufacturing processes are usually very clear and easy to understand. When it comes to the digital world, though, that’s not always the case. Design thinking, agile approaches, and other new ideas aren’t only still being developed, but they also require a different perspective and a level of understanding that many businesses haven’t yet reached.

People have different ideas about what it means to be digital. For some people, digital means using the most up-to-date information technology. It’s all about businesses that aren’t like the rest. Still, some people are looking for new ways to serve customers. Each of these views is correct, but they aren’t complete.

The reason why so many aerospace manufacturers are having trouble with their digital journey is because of this. Companies are full of digital projects, and many of them are working at the same time. It’s very common for businesses in the same industry to use different product life-cycle management (PLM) and manufacturing execution system (MES) solutions. This leads to unsynchronized data, which can lead to mistakes and rework in the development of new products. In addition, projects that don’t work well together or have different goals for the business can lead to disappointing results that make people less likely to do more digital projects in the future.

Being digital isn’t something you can touch.

Manufacturers are very good at making tangible things. It’s just that being digital doesn’t feel real. The way we think and how we do business has changed. A customer’s wants and needs change over time. New things can be done with the help of new technologies. Learning how to see these changes as opportunities or threats is part of becoming digital. You need to figure out whether you should start new businesses in new categories or dig deeper into existing markets to find new value.

Being digital means rethinking how to find and use new tools to make the customer journey better. Simple changes aren’t enough. The best way to create value for customers is to set up a cyclical dynamic in the business that helps companies give their customers the best experience possible.

Making the enterprise technology stack more modern means retooling individual skills, adding modern tools and technologies, continuous development (agile), automated IT, decoupled and API-wrapped core legacy systems, and other IT-related projects. Being digital means making the technology stack more modern. It’s easier for businesses to use data as a tool to make better and faster decisions if they have all of their technology up to date. An environment that encourages new ideas, cross-functional collaboration, and flat hierarchies are all part of this new way of working.

In the aerospace industry, there are a lot of ways to become more digital. For aerospace manufacturers, four initiatives stand out because they can help them innovate, improve business results, and grow in existing and new markets.

There are a lot of things you can do to make a digital thread:

Products made by aerospace and defence companies are usually very advanced, which means they’re often very difficult to make. Complexity that leads to better features is fine. In other ways, complexity can be bad. A lot of times, products and their parts are tracked in a lot of different systems, from design to manufacturing to maintenance. This means that each part has an average of 26 different reference numbers. That’s a type of complexity that makes mistakes and costs money.

It’s called a digital thread because it connects all the parts of the aerospace manufacturing value chain. This makes it easy for information to flow smoothly between a company and its suppliers and customers inside and outside the company. In the value chain, digital threads make it easier to make better decisions by federating and sharing data across design, manufacturing, and service. This helps people make better decisions. At any time, a business can see what’s going on at any point in the value chain. This lets them do this.

If you want your company to start this process, you can start by allowing small programmes to use good data management practises and giving business units and suppliers access to datasets they’ve never had before. A company can start to get new ideas about how to make better decisions when that information is combined with other data that the company has already looked at.

  1. To make smart products, you need a smart factory.

With demand at an all-time high, manufacturers are looking for ways to speed up production and cut down on delays in order to reduce a backlog of orders. This isn’t just to make sure customers are happy, but also to get all the profit a contract can offer and avoid penalties for late deliveries.

A smart factory improves quality and throughput by connecting different parts of the factory together so they can work together better. Each stage of smart factory implementation adds more value to the aerospace manufacturing operation in terms of product quality and throughput, as well as data-driven decision-making tools. Smart manufacturing is all about making decisions and processes that are digitally connected. This is made possible by advanced technologies like the internet of things (IoT) in manufacturing, artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, agile methods, and a collaborative partner ecosystem. As a whole, this new environment leads to a lot of big changes in manufacturing output, quality, and on-time delivery.

The output of a smart factory can be increased by taking the assets that a company already has and making them more productive. People who do this can also help the company better integrate new, smarter assets, which helps the company meet growing demand and lets it respond quickly to unique customer needs of the future.

Putting in a smart factory takes a lot of hard work and a new way of thinking. Aerospace manufacturers need to start with maturity models that show where they are now and where they want to go next. That vision must include where their customers are and how the vision will help guide the rest of the plan. One way to do this is to do an assessment that includes data calls, interviews with key employees, and reviews of current processes and technology.

Finally, companies must spend money to retrain employees so that they can use new methods (agile) and get the most out of a new smart factory. Change management and transformation tools will be used to help the company on its journey as well as set new expectations. This new agile approach will be backed by these tools.

Engineers use a touch screen to control a robot that makes factory parts for engines and a mechanical arm.

  1. Digital twins speed up new ideas.

Aerospace companies are always working to improve the design of their parts. The process of making prototypes is very time-consuming, expensive, and difficult. Imagine how much it would cost to test an aeroplane engine. At the same time, aerospace companies are also trying to cut production costs and make sure their products work well.

A digital twin is a digital version of a real thing. This allows engineers to make virtual scenarios that would be too expensive to do in real life. Before making a real prototype, for example, you should test, visualise, and make models to see how it works or doesn’t work, which leads to faster improvements. A better understanding of how things are made helps managers plan production and figure out what will happen.

Deploying digital twins gives a company a new level of insight into its manufacturing designs and processes, and it also helps speed up throughput and the time it takes to get a product to market. The software helps improve product quality, cut down on waste, and solve problems with predictive maintenance, among other things. Digital twins can also help you communicate better with your customers.

The first step to making a digital twin is to have enough high-performance computing (HPC) capacity. In digital twin efforts, HPC is very important, but very expensive. Companies don’t have to spend a lot of money if they choose flexible on-premises solutions (as a service) with cloud bursting to deal with sudden spikes in HPC demand. As the need for digital twins grows, these alternatives will become the norm.

  1. Make the workplace experience digital.

Aerospace companies have to compete with companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft to find the best people to work with. Giving employees what they want and need to be productive and happy is how you can win the war for the best new employees. Those who work today want to have a good, consumer-like experience and be able to work when and how they want. The digital workplace is all about giving employees the tools and choices they need to be more flexible and in charge of their work lives.

In a digital workplace, everything from hiring and onboarding to re-training and retirement is done through digital tools. Having the right technology tools for each employee and the job or jobs they do is important to having a fun digital workplace. The goal is to have employees who are productive, happy, stay on board, and work well with customers, so that the company can make money.

All of these places are part of a “digital workplace,” from the office to the factory floor, from the people making products to those who help people use them after they buy them. It uses AI to bring new levels of happiness to businesses that are trying to keep their employees. New experiences like augmented and virtual reality and other wearable technology can also be found in a digital workplace. These technologies help workers avoid risks, cut down on travel, and use senior employees’ knowledge more effectively.

Doable: Being digital is a thing that can be done.

Success in the aerospace industry is all about being digital, but it’s not enough to just use technology to get there. When you’re digital, you have to think outside the box and take risks that you’re well-prepared for. It means getting to know your customers better than most businesses do now. It means looking at the value chain for ways to improve, simplify, and come up with new ideas and ways to do things better. What you need to do is find the right people and processes to go with new technology and make sure your employees are happy and productive at work.

Success, in the end, comes down to giving customers value that your competitors can’t match. Today, you can’t do that until you’ve become digital, so you can’t do that now.

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