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‘Aerospace & Defense 4.0’ is revamping the manufacturing landscape in A&D. Its emergence has signaled the arrival of cost-saving products and services and has enhanced the capability of current manufacturing processes and even business models. Such technologies hold much promise for A&D manufacturers going into 2020 and beyond—but the adoption of techniques such as 3D printing, virtual reality and digital twinning could be seen as a tall order, especially for tier two and three A&D manufacturing companies.

Here I outline four areas A&D manufacturers must address to benefit from these new technologies.

1. Connectivity – it’s a digital supply chain

The importance of the digital thread as a communication tool should not be underestimated. It can improve supply chain efficiency, reduce the time needed to take a product to market, and allows a connected flow of data and built-in visibility of an asset across its lifespan. Manufacturers also benefit from increased revenue that comes with extending asset management into the field to supply and service customer assets. The resulting service-based contracts and associated SLAs can be handled using a mobile platform for field workers and data extracted from IIoT, but this necessitates enterprise software to support such connectivity.

Appropriate software tools can enable A&D manufacturers to be part of this ever-increasing digital supply chain by providing interoperability with other solutions. Service-based business models are now common in A&D manufacturing and this brings new customer connectivity needs. Supporting software must be able to link these field-based requirements, with asset and service management functionalities connecting different data streams.

2. Configurability needs agility

Recent research highlights the rise of ‘mass personalization’, with many customers now showing interest in buying custom products or services—and this is especially relevant in A&D. But these customers also have higher expectations in terms of delivery schedules and customization, so it’s imperative for A&D manufacturers to be agile and offer a broad range of project capabilities to prevent long delays and loss of business.

They need to stay agile, and that means having some key functionalities in the enterprise software you use. This includes essential manufacturing capabilities and flexible cost controls—especially around complex assets in A&D, including project-driven work and quality management. When A&D manufacturers have established a set of functionalities they can depend on, they then must make sure these functionalities can be deployed in a modular setting when needed and configure them to meet both customer requirements and internal lean initiatives.

The flipside is being stuck with monolithic software which cannot adapt business processes in order to capitalize on potential new revenue streams.

Aerospace & Defense 4.0

3. Intelligent business models essential

As smarter technology plays a more significant role in A&D manufacturing, there’s a greater need for supporting software to evolve, without which manufacturers won’t ever benefit from the latest tech initiatives. A&D products generate lots of information and companies should utilize this data to develop new, intelligent business models. Those who plateau will be overtaken by more advanced competitors, especially as connected machines become commonplace in A&D manufacturing, and the impact of the latest technologies grow and deliver on the promise of ROI.

The aim for manufacturers has to be to automate IT operations, but to achieve this software must be fit for purpose. Manufacturers who successfully take this step stand to make big gains, but only where increasing investment in technology is complemented by software made up of components that are always up-to-date.

4. Security must be top of mind

A&D manufacturers need to get to grips with cybersecurity. Decision-makers know the risks are significant and, as a result, expectations over security have risen. The U.S. Department of Defense (U.S. DoD), for instance, has recently announced plans to implement a set of contractor cybersecurity guidelines by January—the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification—which could make already stringent rules on supplying products and services to the U.S. DoD stricter.

This means regulatory-compliant software can be the difference when bidding for A&D manufacturing contracts—particularly when you consider the impact of the growth of cloud-based solutions, the security of implementations of access control and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Security must be a top consideration during the design stages of product manufacturing, while potential issues across all stages of the development process must be identified and managed within the enterprise software system. This way A&D manufacturers will ensure they can perform in a digital world.

Realizing the potential of Industry 4.0 technology – enterprise software holds the key

To lay the foundations for a successful strategy going into the next decade and reap the financial, operational and security benefits of the latest A&D technologies, manufacturers must have a progressive enterprise software platform.

As initiatives including additive manufacturing, AI and virtual/augmented reality have greater presence in A&D manufacturing it will be the companies whose enterprise software can keep pace with these developments that will thrive in an increasingly digital era.

To discover more on tapping into Aerospace and Defense 4.0 potential, download this white paper

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