Digital technologies are set to lower the cost of creating new products, but workforces in the aerospace and defence industries will need to upskill in order to plug the productivity gap.

That is the view of Brian Holliday, managing director of Siemens Digital Factory, which helps major and niche companies in the manufacturing, aerospace and defence industries to enhance the flexibility and efficiency of their manufacturing processes.

Next steps

Describing how the company helps enterprises make changes through digital manufacturing or manufacturing 4.0, Holliday said: “Factories are looking at how they can deploy digital technologies. We bring software to help companies design their products and their plants or their processes within the plants, as well as automating them and connecting with them, so data and digital are really central to that next step of improvement.”

Holliday said that within aerospace and defence, companies are looking to implement advanced programmes. “[It’s] how do you design, virtualise and prototype something in an environment before you start accumulating a lot of associated costs,” he commented.

“Aerospace and defence look well placed to use some of the tools that we associate with Industry 4.0. We can then further automate things at a much lower cost than we could before.”

He added: “This is a commercial off-the-shelf technology that the sector can use and increasingly we are looking to the benefits of extracting and exploiting data from our processes in manufacturing, aerospace and defence to better help design products.”

Playing catch-up

Holliday also said there is a need for the UK to “catch up” with France and Germany on its use of automation technologies if it is to improve on productivity. He added that increasing the skills base of the UK workforce is another critical issue for manufacturing, aerospace and defence.

“Skills are critical and we all recognise this. In the industry today, there are roughly 1 million workers in manufacturing that need upskilling. It’s critical that we don’t just employ good talent, but that we also grow that talent in our organisations because the future is coming at us quite fast now.”

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