British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce (Stand N23) is launching a new “IntelligentEngine” concept at the Singapore Airshow this week, continuing its push towards utilizing “Big Data.” The IntelligentEngine vision is based on a belief that the worlds of product and service have become so closely connected that they are now inseparable, said the company.
According to Richard Goodhead, senior v-p marketing for Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace, the Intelligent Engine is “the confluence of three concepts—product, services and digital—coming together.” He said that when Total Care started for Trent engines, “the [three] circles started to overlap” and now Rolls is “taking far more data and doing far more with it.”
Goodhead also said it can be represented by the “Three Cs—connected, contextually aware and comprehending," meaning the engine can learn from its own experiences and those of other engines.
“In addition to designing, testing, and maintaining engines in the digital realm, the IntelligentEngine vision sets out a future where an engine will be increasingly connected, contextually aware and comprehending, helping to deliver greater reliability and efficiency,” said Goodhead.
Dominic Horwood, Rolls-Royce director, customer and services–civil aerospace, said: “In the nearer term, it will focus us on developing the skills, tools and technology we need to deliver an engine that is connected, contextually aware and comprehending. In the longer term, our ambition is unbounded; we could be looking at engines that understand their own condition and can heal themselves, or even engines with interchangeable cores.”
In December 2017 Rolls-Royce launched R2 Data Labs, which it described as “an acceleration hub” for data innovation. Horwood said this is playing a key role in achieving the aims of the IntelligentEngine, “Using advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning…to unlock design, manufacturing, and operational efficiencies within Rolls-Royce.” The launch of R2 Data Labs came after it formed a partnership with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), also complementing a preferred partner agreement with Microsoft for cloud solutions, “[Positioning] Rolls-Royce closely alongside two globally recognized digital service providers.”
Another recent development supporting the IntelligentEngine vision was the opening of the Airlines Aircraft Availability Centre in June 2017. The new center is situated at Rolls’s headquarters in Derby, UK, and is “ready for the transformation in volume and richness of data—from kilobytes of data per flight to terabytes,” said the company. “This, when combined with our engineering teams’ expertise, creates new insights which allow better and faster services decisions to be made. That work is complemented by Rolls-Royce’s global network of customer service centers, created to work locally with customers, by providing in-depth expertise.”
Combining Rolls-Royce data with customer data will lead to “dramatic improvements to airline economics in terms of aircraft availability and fuel efficiency,” the company claimed.
R-R said the new approach would take the focus beyond maintenance services, and from activities representing only 4 percent of an airline’s direct operating costs to nearly 70 percent. “Those availability services involve a growing understanding of what ‘the perfect fuel-saving flight’ involves—one which accounts for weather, air traffic control restrictions and advises airlines on the most efficient way to fly in different conditions. This offers airlines the opportunity to save millions of dollars when a one percent fuel saving equates to a $250,000 saving per aircraft per year.”
Digital capability also completes a loop within Rolls-Royce—not only informing product design and services, but also manufacturing. One example, it said, is the Joint Lab to develop Smart Manufacturing technologies set up by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Rolls-Royce, and Singapore Aero Engine Services Limited (SAESL).
The parties announced last year a plan to invest up to S$60 million (US$45.5 million) to set up a lab to develop next-generation aerospace manufacturing, as well as MRO capabilities enabled by advanced processes, automation and digital technologies.