Lengthy aircraft program delays happen for a variety of reasons, but a common thread lies in what multinational management consultancy Accenture calls their extraordinary complexity and the “interwoven” nature of the decisions of hundreds of suppliers. Compounding such complexity, says Accenture, a wide geographic dispersion of suppliers exists across virtually all regions of the world, resulting in fragmented, disaggregated and misaligned development processes, supply chain calculations such as parts shortages and manufacturing/engineering inefficiencies.
Speaking with AIN two days before the start of the show, Accenture aerospace and defense lead for North America John Schmidt called “astounding” the level of complexity that now characterizes design and manufacturing processes. That complexity, along with the level of design authority that now lies with the supply chain, each have contributed mightily to the program delays experienced by Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Comac and Mitsubishi.
In fact, Schmidt said that Boeing spread 70 percent of the design of the 787 and Airbus 50 percent of the A350 around those programs’ supply chains. Although Boeing concedes that it perhaps went to far in assigning design authority to suppliers, companies in general will need to continue the trend. The economics of today’s aerospace and defense industries demand it, believes Schmidt.
In its studies into the subject, Accenture asks how the industry needs to identify and execute new strategies for overcoming the pitfalls that lead to delays. “Solving this problem will be strategically and financially critical to the overall health of industry players,” said Schmidt. “Finding a solution to this problem is absolutely pivotal in driving higher revenues and profits, lowering production costs, accelerating airplanes into the market and delivering more affordable, reliable, comfortable and enriching flying experiences to airline passengers.”
Schmidt suggested the answer to the delay problems lay with more effective use of product lifecycle management (PLM). Accenture has moved to strengthen its PLM-related offerings with its recent acquisition of PCO Innovation, an independent international consulting and systems integration group specializing in PLM software technologies for aerospace and defense companies.
“The industry is embracing a digital mindset like never before,” said Schmidt. “This new and coalescing digital mindset aims to make sure the industry’s digital pipes connecting product development, engineering, supply chains and the in-service fleet keep flowing smoothly with high-quality data, which is currently often lacking. The evolution of PLM technologies and capabilities is a great example of this coalescing digital mindset.”