In our recent episode of S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast, Brian Fanzo and Daniel Newman discussed the future development and potential of the aerospace industry. Their guest, Torsten Welte, is a leader in SAP’s aerospace defense industry business unit. He works with a wide range of satellite, spacecraft, aircraft, and defense companies. Here’s an overview of what they discussed.
The aerospace industry unifies a very diverse range of interests. These range from the customer-focused needs of commercial aerospace, to the high levels of precision required in spacecraft, to the solid reliability required of defense systems. One aspect where these diverse interests are unified is in supply chain transparency.
New companies are bringing a wide range of new technology to the cockpit and cabin. These new products are also deepening the divide between the different sectors of the aerospace industry by increasing the specialization in each sector. However, the use of common standards and platforms are making it easier for these diverse systems to interconnect and work together for a common good. There’s been an increased interest in the industry. Nations are discussing manned missions to Mars, added flights to more points in Asia, and the need for higher security in defense.
Increased use of blockchain
One unifying theme is the use of blockchain to improve security and transparency in the system. As new technologies have come into the market, there’s been a related increase in the use of blockchain. Of the diverse areas within aerospace, the defense industry has especially embraced the security technology. This is because blockchain allows only authorized users to view the information and prevents sensitive information leaks to the outside world. But blockchain also has its place in commercial aerospace as new technologies and products need to be authenticated. This helps prevent fraud issues for export or shipping documentation.
Technologies such as blockchain are helping improve security. There is strong demand for pilots, mechanics, and other workers necessary to the flight line. Increased demand for smaller planes is hitting the supply chain hard and causing shortages. At the same time, there’s been an increased need for security measures in the nearly 17 years following the 9/11 attacks. Blockchain helps transcend these often opposing demands of maintaining security while increasing production to create a better overall commercial aerospace industry.
Rapid ramp-up of small-plane demand
But why has blockchain become so popular for supply chain transparency? The industry has seen a general downturn on the production of larger planes. At the same time, there’s incredible demand for smaller planes, especially in Asia. Torsten says, “a couple years ago, Boeing and Airbus, 737 or A320, created somewhere around 30 a month … And jumping now to a target of 60 a month.”
This growing market has created a demand for accountability and transparency. As new companies enter the market, they’re introducing new technology that may have its own issues. Blockchain can act as an authentication point to help prevent fraud. This helps ensure that the entire system works together securely. It covers everything from the supply chain to operations. The challenge is having these diverse systems work together in a unified system.
Long-term aerospace changes
Even as the industry has grown more diverse, common goals have brought it closer together. The expectation of a manned mission to Mars over the next few decades is driving long-term change in the industry. There was a push for space flight and a moon landing in the 1950s and 1960s. That same excitement over the possibilities of space exploration is driving improvement and change.
New programs, research, effort, and vision are focusing not only national aerospace efforts but international efforts as well. The advent of digitization is making it possible for people from around the world to contribute to the overall mission. This effort is creating changes closer to home. International experts can now communicate effectively. The industry as a whole is emerging with improvements. This is leading to improved flight technology, overall quality, and similar areas of interest to the entire industry.
The impact of customer experience
Customer experience has become a serious driver for many industries over the past few years. As digitization has marched forward, unspoken customer expectations have increased. The experience across multiple carriers and systems should be seamless – if your last flight had certain amenities, you should be able to enjoy those same amenities on the connecting flight. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the same carrier or a completely different service.
Changes in technology are providing differences in lighting, communications, and many other areas. Other sectors of the travel industry, such as cruise lines, are using Big Data to create an artificial-intelligence-like digital environment. This could be implemented in commercial aerospace to determine a customer’s preferences and past purchasing history, allowing available options to be customized to that individual. In turn, the interface provides the customer with a superior experience that meets or exceeds their needs. With these tools to create a better overall experience, compensation payments and outright refunds are reduced dramatically.
The aerospace industry has been at the cutting edge of technology for the past several decades. At the same time, it is currently scrambling to keep up with the demands of digitization. Internet of Things technology, Big Data, connectivity, supercomputing, and artificial intelligence are changing the way the industry operates. And as Torsten states in the podcast, “technology is the enabler.” New options and customized possibilities are providing a better user experience. Technologies such as blockchain enable better accountability and security for your business. But how do you combine these new technologies into a single cohesive system? Discover more in the S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast.
Hear the full episode here. Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Discrete Manufacturers: Automotive, Aerospace and Defense, High Tech, and Industrial Machinery. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?