The modern workplace is increasingly being redefined, as businesses solve their biggest problems by adopting new technologies. This is profoundly changing how people work, how they learn and how they interact with each other, but putting it into practice is proving difficult for many businesses.

The A&D industry is facing tough challenges with their future workforce, as new generations of workers demand new work environments and collaboration tools. It’s therefore becoming increasingly important for businesses to provide the right collaboration tools and to obtain the right information to shorten their learning curve.

Technology is a critical part of the entire new workforce management process. It offers organizations a wealth of new opportunities, from digitizing their businesses to taking advantage of a wealth of synchronization and collaboration opportunities. But when it comes to implementing it, companies must be flexible, have a culture that embraces digital, and have the right systems and processes in place.

Every Business is a Technology Business

The key to implementing these new technologies and processes is to embrace the digital economy. This is enabling businesses to provide online engagement with customers and join digital communities that share product data, design and benefits.

Leading the way in this digital drive is the aviation industry, which is seeing businesses responding to the pressure to constantly innovate, reduce operational costs and ensure uptime as savvy customers increasingly demand more for less from airlines.

The industry is seeing a boom in demand from passengers, with 3.7 billion people projected to board flights this year, according to Airbus Group. This has led Boeing to predict that 38,000 new airplanes will be required to accommodate the mass of passengers and cargo in the next 20 years.

Businesses across the industry are therefore having to think differently and embrace the digital economy to survive. The very nature of the aviation industry’s ecosystem forces business to collaborate and share ideas to ensure they optimize products over their entire lifecycle and maximize the customer experience.

Manufacturers have redesigned products to enhance performance and reduce fuel costs and, in addition to using advanced composites that dramatically reduce vehicle weights, software is playing an increasingly critical role in manufacturing, managing and flying airplanes more efficiently.

Here is an overview of some of the key technology trends driving this digital transformation:

  • Hyper-Connectivity: The ever-growing mass of communication methods is one of the main forces driving digital transformation. This is especially the case in the competitive aviation landscape, where businesses are now able to manage how equipment is produced and serviced and to keep track of what is being sold to the customer through highly connected products, people, factories and business networks.
  • Supercomputing: Real-time in-memory computing is a breakthrough for all industries but especially so in the aviation trade, where it’s driving significant contributions to aerospace engineering. It enables high-speed interconnections and big-data disk storage, which enables businesses to make huge strides forward in engine performance and design.
  • Cloud Computing: Cloud computing allows businesses to be more agile, grow faster and work their way into new geographies that would previously have been unavailable to them. This allows them to meet increased commercial demand within controlled budgets. Many businesses are already utilizing the hybrid landscape, which enables technologies to interact with on-premise applications.
  • Cybersecurity: The ever-evolving threats of hacking, spying and digital theft become increasingly vital as businesses look to safeguard their intellectual property as they execute their strategy around the development of advanced digital products.

By embracing these key trends, businesses in the aviation industry and beyond can reimagine their business models and processes and, as a result, successfully move towards their digital transformation goals.

3D Printing Leads the Way

One of the advances leading the way in helping businesses become more digitally focused is 3D printing. Factories are now producing 3D printed parts for airplanes, supercars and even entirely 3D printed fully-functional motorbikes, as well as creating digital mockups and connected robots.

The 3D printing revolution is diminishing development cycles and delivering a mass of opportunities for new business models – giving suppliers the tools to print their parts within the plant and create a factory within a factory.

As it becomes more widespread, and the technique is used for building new products, having access to advanced manufacturing technology becomes vital. This is especially important as 3D factories begin obtaining aerospace certifications and manufacturers strategically invest in acquiring specialized 3D capabilities.

In the future, OEMs and parts manufacturers will find themselves having to sell the digital design of parts, which will require a completely different digital platform. Legacy supply chain models will be evolved and disrupted as parts are increasingly replenished on demand, which will see 3D printing replace traditional production methods, slash production times and enable earlier testing of prototypes.

Successfully Go Digital

3D printing is just one example of how new technology is changing the way that businesses work and how traditional processes are being disrupted.

Key players in the aviation industry are creating transformational roles such as chief digital officers, and developing a vision that will help them go beyond their current comfort zones. These early adopters are reimagining their business processes and job descriptions, which is crucial to success in the digital economy.

A good starting point on the digital journey is to reimagine your enterprise with new business outcomes and to keep customers at the forefront. It is, therefore key to focus on aftermarket-driven strategies, implemented with services based on real-time operational and engineering data.

For example, Lockheed Martin’s digital vision is an end-to-end initiative that uses the boom in digital manufacturing – such as model-based design, additive manufacturing and advanced materials – to shrink cycle times and reduce costs. This ‘digital tapestry’ approach enables the company to connect everything from concept all the way through to realization and completion of products.

As businesses increasingly embrace new trends in technology, we are seeing an influx of similar innovations and advanced smart products that are reshaping value chains and redefining core manufacturing and service processes.

Using the aviation industry as an example, businesses must look to develop new strategic partnerships with risk/reward sharing programs to showcase the latest innovations to the market faster, with access to new geographical markets and technologies.

The Aerospace industry is going digital. Get SAP's perspective on how software is playing an increasingly critical role in manufacturing, managing, and flying the airplane more efficiently. Download the free whitepaper Value Creation in the Digital Aerospace and Defense Network.