Digital threads and training a new generation of aerospace and defence workers with augmented reality were among the topics discussed during a KPMG Spotlight Session at FIA Connect.

The session addressed some of the business strategy challenges within aerospace and defence world and the investments and innovations which could help businesses prepare for the upturn in business by boosting operational efficiency. The session heard that digitisation could also help firms meet sustainability objectives, create competitive advantages and build overall resilience across the value chain.

KPMG’s Spotlight session featured a conversation with experts from global technology company PTC which provides proven solutions including IoT, augmented reality, computer-aided design, product lifecycle management for customers across all industries.

The session featured Brent Baker, VP, Worldwide Federal Aerospace Defense and Energy, PTC; Greg Corlis, Principal Emerging Technologies, KPMG in the US; Ian Boulton, Director, Technology and Platforms, Aerospace and Defense, PTC and Jim Adams, National Aerospace & Defense Industry Leader, KPMG in the US.

Advanced technologies can unlock new value for businesses

The panel discussed how advanced technologies such as digital thread would unlock new value for businesses through greater integration of organisations. They also discussed how extended reality solutions could attract and transform the workforce.

A digital thread is the framework which connects data flows and produces a holistic view of an asset’s data across its product lifecycle. The framework can be used to address protocols, security, and standards. A digital thread connects digital twins, digital models of physical assets, or groups of assets.

Baker said digitisation was being embraced by more firms with the current trading difficult conditions caused by Covid resulting in a change and acceleration in measures which could bring greater operational efficiencies. “There’s all kinds of definitions out there but the one I like to use as a digital thread is a system that that really creates a closed loop, which greatly benefits that digital and the physical world. It optimises both of those worlds and really helps you get control of your data.”

Digital thread “a natural evolution” across all areas of the business

He described the digital thread as a “natural evolution” which across all areas of the business: “People, processes, definitely the products, and even the places,” he said.

Boulton said digitisation could also be used both to attract and train talent into the industry, which would help the industry to address the issues of an ageing workforce. He explained that a number of studies had shown that cognitive retention was greatly improved through illustrative means, which could be both 2D and 3D which could be used to train operators within specific workstations how to carry out a task.

“What we’ve found, and from other agencies that have studied this, such as the US Air Force and some of the academic institutions that they work with, is that cognitive retention is greatly improved through illustrative.”

He added that the younger generation were used to immersive technologies which could also be used for training purposes. “You think about the gaming technologies that they’ve gained as younger people. A lot of those gaming technologies leverage headsets and all the types of immersion into the visual experience. So, in many cases, that’s the way that they are used to interacting with systems. We have to modernise the infrastructure to support these workers as they enter the workforce.

“If we still present them with 2D drawings and blueprints that they’re going to have a harder time understanding than if we present them with immersive digital information.”

Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter