In February 2019, Airbus and Dassault Systèmes (Paris) signed a five-year Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to work together on 3D design, engineering, manufacturing, simulation, and intelligence applications. This will enable Airbus to take a major step towards digital transformation and create a base for a new European industrial ecosystem in aviation.
The aerospace industry has a proven track record in the adoption of upcoming technologies compared to other industries. Airbus has been undertaking several initiatives towards digital transformation and has invested significantly in the development of technologies, such as IoT, big data, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, and additive manufacturing, to enhance efficiency in production and improve quality. Since the last few years, Airbus has been implementing comprehensive programs to digitize its design, supply-chain management, service support, manufacturing, and other functions. Integration of various databases from platforms, such as airline, customer support, and maintenance has enabled Airbus to reduce the turnaround time required to fix fuel pumps on an A380.
In continuation with these initiatives, Airbus is going to implement Dassault Systemes’ 3D Experience platform, which is a suite of social & collaborative, information intelligence, content and simulation, 3D modeling, and real-time 3D experience apps. This software is industry-focused and integrated and built around the industry’s best practices and processes. It will deliver digital continuity, from design to operations, in a single data model for unified user experience, making Digital Design Manufacturing and Services (DDMS) a company-wide reality for all Airbus divisions and product lines. It will ultimately help Airbus co-design and develop next-generation aircraft using digital manufacturing facilities that will help in cost reduction and timely deliveries. It will also help create product differentiation for Airbus, as this platform will deliver end-to-end solutions, including all engineering parameters for the additive manufacture of parts, inclusive of material science, functional specification, generative design, 3D printing optimization, production, and certification.
IMPACT ON DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION MARKET
Digital transformation includes technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data, and the Internet of Things, which support organizations in reducing downtime, minimizing errors, improving quality, and reducing production cost. Airbus is currently using AI to analyze data received from various manufacturing units, enabling the prediction of variations in manufacturing processes. This enables identifying problems earlier and preventing the occurrence of bottle-necks.
Airlines and flight operators can reduce operational costs and overheads significantly by optimizing their fleet and operations with AI-powered systems. Potential areas in which AI can be applied in the travel industry include pricing optimization, flight delay prediction, flight route optimization, crew scheduling, and many more. Amadeus, one of the leading Global Distribution System (GDS) providers, has introduced a schedule recovery system, which aims to help airlines mitigate the risks of disruptions in travel.
Furthermore, these technologies can be used to enhance passenger experience, providing benefits to airlines as well as travel companies. Due to automation and self-service solutions, airlines can optimize pricing strategies, increase customer engagement, and improve the overall flight experience. AI is one of the prominent technology out of other mentioned technologies, which is being adopted by key players across the aviation industry to improve the overall output and to stay competitive. The Artificial Intelligence in Aviation Market is expected to be valued at USD 2.2 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 46.65% between 2017 and 2025. Digital twins, AI, big data, and predictive maintenance will anticipate customer needs while additive manufacturing (3D Printing), augmented reality, and digitization will facilitate quick response from manufacturers along with remote analysis of situations and on-demand spare part production.
Airbus recognizes the potential of these technologies and plans to use these to digitally design its products and solutions to ensure quality and consistency across all internal and external stakeholders to meet aggressive production ramp-up targets and customer commitments.
Not only Airbus, but other OEMs across the value chain of the aviation industry are also implementing digital technologies to improve production and quality and reduce the cost of production. End customers stand to benefit if the entire supply chain—from aircraft design to in-service support—is digital, as the entire aerospace value chain is connected and superior processes and production efficiency can be achieved.
IMPACT ON TOP COMPETITORS
Dassault’s 3D Experience platform will accelerate the digital transformation of Airbus and help the company capture insights and expertise across its ecosystem to deliver new experiences that only the digital world can make possible. Airbus’s key focus area at present is to provide a robust product setup that will help in reducing the lead time required for product development, which will provide Airbus with the much-needed competitive advantage in the industry. Aircraft manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing are also investing heavily for the integration of digital transformation in their manufacturing processes. For instance, Lockheed Martin turned to 3D technology and big data to streamline the diagnostics and maintenance processes for its F-35 and F-22 fighter planes. Boeing has already adopted the IoT-driven blockchain technology to support their aviation ecosystem.
Digital transformation has been on the agenda of all key players in the aviation sector for years and the period between 2018 and 2020 is predicted to be crucial for major companies to plan and implement it across their value chains. By undertaking collaborations and partnerships, companies can accelerate the digital transformation process the way Airbus has. This partnership with Dassault Systemes is a strategic decision taken by Airbus, which will help the company manufacture faster and improved designs & services while simultaneously reducing product development time. It will accelerate structural analysis and virtual testing of Airbus’ next-generation aircraft, starting with the A350-900. Since 2015, Airbus has been exploring the power of digital technologies to improve operations, product performance, and increase revenue and profit. Airbus recognizes that in order to adapt and stay competitive in the market, it is important that the entire value chain develops innovative products and services.