Rewind to the 2017 Dubai Airshow. Remember the pictures of the Light Attack aircraft announced at the show, manufactured entirely of carbon fiber—making it lighter than its competitors? It was a major breakthrough in the development of Light Attack aircraft and IFS was already part of the picture. We announced then in Dubai that the high-tech aircraft and land vehicle manufacturer and start-up, Calidus, had selected IFS as its core software solution to manage key company operations and manufacturing projects.
The IFS solution would be all-embracing, including Finance, HR, Supply Chain, Project and Document Management modules to support the development of all major Calidus projects, including the manufacture of Light Attack aircraft.
How Calidus arrived at their choice of IFS is the study of an ambitious start-up operating in a heavily regulated, fiercely competitive and mission-critical industry. The Calidus team strategically selected IFS in order to put a system in place from the very start that would grow and support the company as it shifts from prototype to commercialization.
Proven track record to match Calidus growth ambitions
The team at Calidus came equipped with deep industry expertise, having worked with manufacturers such as Airbus and Embraer, and the decision to deploy IFS was not taken lightly. Calidus has many technical experts who had worked with SAP previously, but the tipping point for Calidus in selecting IFS software was our deep and long-standing experience working with SAAB across its enterprise. In particular, SAAB could demonstrate a successful integration with 3DX, a modelling and simulation tool, and ERP from IFS. The Calidus technical team were also impressed with the ease of integration and flexibility of IFS software, particularly given their company growth plans.
The company wanted to be able to phase-in modules in line with its business planning and activities, and in particular to meet its goals for the highly advanced Light Attack aircraft project as it moved from the initial development and prototyping of the aircraft to testing, manufacturing and delivery to customers.
Initial phase – getting prototypes into the air
The Calidus business is made up of two main clusters—Land Systems and Aerospace. IFS is supporting the business across both clusters. Calidus began its IFS implementation in 2018 as the company started on its growth plan. This first phase involved using IFS for supply chain procurement, HR, payroll, finance, project management, and health & safety. Since then, the company has grown significantly and, with the help of IFS software, has now produced flying prototypes for the Light Attack aircraft.
Keeping one of the world’s most advanced Light Attack aircraft on track
The superior and highly efficient Light Attack aircraft is designed especially for asymmetric warfare zones and easily adapts to the most difficult terrain and weather conditions. It incorporates a carbon fiber structure that can brave the roughest terrain, and sports ground-breaking technology to deliver best-in-class versatility and transportability, while keeping operational costs low.
The Light Attack aircraft is ideal for Close Air Support (CAS), Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Counter-Insurgency (COIN), Persistent Air Support (PAS) and Advanced and Basic Training.
Bringing intelligence into manufacturing operations
With prototypes from the initial phase now flying, the spotlight turned to manufacturing operations and the second phase of the project. In 2020 IFS began to support quality management, non-conformance reporting, configure and manufacturing (integrated with a PLM system), full lifecycle, change-orders, work-orders and Materials Requirement Planning (MRP).
These functionalities are critical for Light Attack aircraft manufacturing because they manage a complex process of delivering an aircraft or change order to customer, with critical emphasis on getting the right part to the right place at the right time. The IFS solution takes the burden away from manual processes which previously could only be achieved by spreadsheet and individual work. To remove any cross-departmental confusion, IFS will standardize data access across the board, meaning all parties are viewing the same information at the same time.
“We want to deliver the right product to our customers at the right time, right price, and right quality. Using IFS allows us to accomplish this. IFS will analyze and do the work and will give us a proposition of what we need to do. At the same time, it records quality and non-conformance issues,” explains Hamid Sba, Head of Operations at Calidus.
Questions demand the right answers
This data-driven approach will provide answers to work status questions such as—how much have I got in my stock? What do I need to order? How many stations of production do I need to go through? What is in my work-in-progress?
“We want everyone to have access to the same information at the same time. We will also use the system for performance management of our business and generate KPIs,” continues Sba.
This single instance of accurate data will allow analysis of business performance to measure how much Calidus may be spending in a specific commodity and even drill down to how long things are taking at individual workstations.
Progression to incorporate MRO
The Calidus team is now looking ahead to supporting assets after initial manufacturing. The business is now in the process of producing and delivering aircraft—this is where the MRO module within IFS will play a critical role to support these aircraft throughout their lifecycles.
Calidus has started work on an MRO model to support flight operations of the two initial prototypes. This includes creating a Quality Management System inside the ERP and integration with a part master with preservation tasks embedded—including reminders, integrated to non-conformance and hours executed by maintenance.
Compliance and regulations all part of the job, never an afterthought
A robust MRO model will not only track maintenance of the aircraft in terms of flight hours, flight cycle and life-limited items, it will ensure Calidus is compliant to Part-145 requirements—allowing the company to prove to airworthiness authorities that it can safely operate the aircraft.
“The thinking behind having the MRO model in place at this phase of the company is that it is the easiest way to be at least compliant with the Part-145 requirements,” says Hamid Sba. “We are not going to be certified to maintain aircraft, but we shall demonstrate airworthy totality. We as a company have that capability. To do this by hand with XLS files is impossible. That’s why we wanted the IFS MRO model. The functionality is already embedded.”
Calidus – using IFS technology from start to finish
As a highly ambitious start-up, Calidus quickly recognized IFS software could evolve in lockstep with its growth strategy—from initial design and engineering through to manufacturing and maintenance.
As firm believers in data and analytics, the experienced Calidus team will use IFS to add intelligence across its operations and link all key departments with access to accurate real-time data.
Each new IFS customer engagement provides the opportunity to learn and Calidus has been no different. The IFS and Calidus story is one of an ambitious start-up that strategically made software a central part of their evolutionary growth. The close working relationship has given IFS new insights into operational and business requirements, allowing us to fine tune our software support to ensure we can create the best possible Moment of ServiceTM for our users and end-customers.
Watch this space to see Calidus progress even further in the aerospace and defense arena.