Airborne’s project engineer, Dr Jamie Snudden looks at the opportunities and barriers facing the aerospace industry in implementing digital technology and in getting to grips with Industry 4.0.
The effects of Industry 4.0 in many industries have already been seen, with improvements to existing value propositions emerging, or entirely new ones being developed. In aviation, digital technology has already fundamentally changed the airline industry landscape, with the downfall of Thomas Cook representing the death knell for the ‘travel agency’ business model, giving way to low cost airlines enabled by internet booking systems. The question of how Industry 4.0 technologies can be applied upstream in the mature, highly regulated aerospace manufacturing sector remains.
Commercial aviation is one of six broad segments in the aerospace market. After the dreadful downturn that commercial aviation is facing due to Covid-19, relative growth in other sectors may be seen, particularly in electric and unmanned aviation. Since these segments are less mature than commercial aviation, there is an opportunity for digital technology in manufacturing to be implemented and proven more rapidly. Some of the new players will want to establish a greenfield manufacturing site to have all under their control, others are seeking more to a smart and flexible supply chain that can respond quickly.
Industry 4.0 will allow countries to become more self-sufficient and compete against countries that traditionally have cheaper labour rates. In this review however, ‘political’ is taken as the context within an organisation more than externally. Uptake of digital technology can make organisations far more efficient,