Report reveals emerging technologies including digital threads and digital twins being used to overcome data overwhelm

New research from strategy and consulting company Accenture has found that three quarters of Aerospace & Defence executives feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data available to them. 

With just one flight creating terabytes of data – without even taking supply chain or manufacturing into account – Accenture’s research has found that industry executives are increasingly turning to emerging technologies to overcome the challenge:

  • 100 per cent expect to deploy digital twins or threads in the next three years
  • 63 per cent use AI to analyse product or customer usage data
  • 57 per cent use VR in design such as walk-throughs or fit analysis
  • 57 per cent are exploring use of blockchain to manage configuration data

Digital twins and digital threads defined

A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical object, such as a three-dimensional model of an aircraft engine. It is often used for prototyping, testing and simulation of design manufacture, and serviceability to gain efficiencies in product development. A digital thread is an extension of the digital twin into a product’s lifecycle from concept through design, engineering, supply chain, manufacturing and the aftermarket, tying real-life data and analytics to the virtual world to develop better products and services. Use of these technologies can streamline data flows and enhance manufacturing productivity and reliability.

All of the executives surveyed said they plan to use digital thread and digital twin technologies within three years to manage supplier and partner content as well as intellectual-property management. In this same time period, nearly half (47 per cent) expect to see a singular, all-encompassing digital thread/digital twin across the ecosystem that serves their customers, with slightly fewer (43 per cent) expecting a coordinated digital twin/digital thread by major functionality and/or supplier/partner.

Digital twin technologies adopted by nearly all execs

Nearly all (96 per cent) of the executives said they are using or evaluating digital twin technologies, with more than half (53 per cent) using them for both existing and new products and services, and 43 per cent using the technologies for new products and services only. The top business outcomes companies are seeking by deploying digital threads are faster time to market and identifying operational cost savings.

“The growing and complementary use of digital threads and digital twins in aerospace and defence is moving in lock-step with the industry’s pursuit of data veracity and corporate-wide digital transformations,” said John Schmidt, managing director for Accenture’s Aerospace and Defence practice. “These technologies can help companies leverage data to generate more-valuable insights, improve decision making and reduce costs.”

From AI to VR

The survey also reveals use of other advanced technologies to manage or use product or service and usage data:

  • 77 per cent use augmented reality in sales and marketing, such as integration of messaging with customer tours;
  • 73 per cent use the internet of things to obtain product or service usage or operational data;
  • 67 per cent use analytics to gain insight into product or customer-usage data;
  • 63 per cent use artificial intelligence to analyse product or customer usage data;
  • 57 per cent use virtual reality in design such as walk-throughs or fit analysis; and
  • 57 per cent are exploring use of blockchain to manage configuration data.

These survey results are analysed in a report titled The Digital Thread Imperative: Aerospace and Defense Companies Must Make the Right Connections for New Growth.

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