Industry 4.0 in Aviation, Aerospace, and Defence Part I: Why you won’t find much of it

Industry 4.0 in Aviation, Aerospace, and Defence Part I: Why you won’t find much of it
y is it so rare to find digital maturity amongst companies in aviation, aerospace, and defence?
This article is part of a series on digitalization in the supporting industries of aviation, aerospace and defence. We investigate why manual work processes dominate them with only a little automation, and why the time is ripe for joining the fourth industrial revolution.

Let’s start by establishing what industry 4.0 means, so we all from this point onward share a common understanding of the term.  

It was introduced by the World Economic Forum chairman, Klaus Schwab, back in 2015. And rather quickly it got a strong foothold among most smart consultancies, spreading worldwide like wildfire. The term came as a welcome designation for what is merely an ongoing transformation of traditional industrial and manufacturing practices increasingly enlaced with the latest smart technologies. This is what it broadly refers to, so now we don’t have to puzzle more about that.

The essential part of industry 4.0 is, however, that it has made a noteworthy entry in many industries and companies worldwide. Among other things, they all eye significant gains in the form of increased efficiency in production. According to a PwC research, nine out of ten industrial companies are investing in digitalizing their factories to one extent or another.


Companies expect efficiency increase

New technological possibilities such as predictive maintenance (foreseeing breakdowns before they happen), integrated planning (improving efficiency across all departments), and big data-driven process and quality optimization are pushing the known boundaries in the industry. In an older but celebrated survey from 2016, PwC found that 56 per cent of the companies asked, expected to increase their efficiency by more than 20 per cent before the year 2021, merely by implementing industry 4.0 technologies.

But while the confetti is still falling slowly to the ground, it stands clear, that so far not all industries have been able to ride the wave of the fourth industrial revolution. In sectors such as aviation, aerospace, and defence, the party still hasn’t fully begun. Do not be mistaken; in these sectors, companies make great use of highly advanced technologies, but it remains a fact that they have difficulty raising the level of digitalisation within their organizations.

Highly specialized with no mass production

Co-founder of and CEO in Whyyy, Rasmus Bertram, has in recent years helped several companies in these sectors make digital advancements.  

“They are challenged since they often operate in highly regulated areas, meaning they are subject to comprehensive, legislative requirements regarding documentation. On top of that, they are highly specialized, meaning they do not conduct mass production or have any of the repeating work processes that come with it. And finally, they have many manual and analytical processes requiring a high knowledge level among their relatively few employees,” he says.

In his experience, these characteristics are the main reasons why you find such low digital maturity among companies operating in the industries of aviation, aerospace, and defence.

“If companies in these sectors wish to expand their business and service more customers, it usually means they will have to hire more employees. And employees with the right set of qualifications only exist in small numbers, difficult to track down, and costly to pay,” Rasmus Bertram says.

“And finally, they have many manual and analytical processes requiring a high knowledge level among their relatively few employees."

Rasmus Bertram, Co-founder & CEO, Whyyy

On top of that, he has found that only a limited number of their many manual work processes are suitable for getting supported by standardized digital solutions found on the market. Their industry is too specialized. It is simply not profitable to purchase digital tools in these industries - at least this was the case until recently, but we will get back to that later. It might seem a bit difficult to grasps why companies in such highly advanced industries struggle going digital. So firstly, we will dive into that subject in the next article.

Other articles in the series

Part ll: Prevented by endless documentation

Part III: Now the time has come

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