Panellists urge industry not to be distracted by technology and focus on adopting ‘outcome-based thinking’

Aerospace companies may not be advancing as fast as they think they are when it comes to harnessing the power of advanced digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and additive manufacturing.

Although the potential for the industry from these technologies was described as ‘huge,’ a panel at FINN Sessions at Farnborough International Airshow agreed that companies should avoid being seduced by the latest shiny technology. Instead, the sector needed to focus on the problems their businesses need to solve.

The panel discussed that ‘outcome-based thinking’ was key to devising a route through the complexity of digital transformation. Using this method was more likely to lead to rewards such as efficiency, reduced risk, increased revenue and even safety gains.

Research from Deloitte on how ready companies are to capitalise on aerospace 4.0 found that many companies within the sector had assessed themselves as being advanced, in not only readiness but also implementation.

“Frankly I was extremely surprised,” said David S Williams of Deloitte. He added that they were likely to be answering based on how they had decided to implement Aerospace 4.0 within their business – for example, an advanced application of an individual technology – as opposed to taking a holistic view.

Don’t lose focus – identify the problem first

During the FINN session, panellists weighed in on how aerospace firms can truly move ahead:

Christian Beck, Digital Catapult, said that too much grappling with the definition of aerospace 4.0 would leads the sector to focus on the technology. Instead, we should instead focus on the desired business outcomes and benefits and work back from there.

Rob Sharman, GKN Additive, agreed on the need to clearly identify the problem first as the rationale for implementing any technology. He noted the power of data but also highlighted the remaining challenges in capitalising on it – especially skills.

Wait for change and your business risks falling behind

Sameer Savani, ADS Group said: “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” adding: “This is not a technology challenge; it’s a business challenge.”

He urged companies to look at what they need to improve within their business, before harnessing data and digital capabilities. Technology alone won’t solve the problem, he said – culture and business model adaptation will also be key.

Savani urged aerospace companies to “think big, start small, scale fast”. He added there was “no one size fits all” so experimentation and partnering was the only way. ADS also urged businesses to act now. Savani said: “Digital capabilities that can improve your business are here today, and it’s likely that your competitors and your customers and already adopting them. Waiting risks falling behind.”

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