The Ever-Evolving Landscape of Aerospace and Defense

The Ever-Evolving Landscape of Aerospace and Defense

The Aerospace and Defense Industry is transforming. Spurring this transformation are two innovations: 1) products requiring novel structural and performance characteristics, and 2) analytically-driven production and technology innovation.

A&D products scale from the micro drones to large platforms utilizing all modes of flight, including autonomy. Aircraft are operating at greater speed and with nimble maneuverability. Propulsion systems operate on inexpensive and environmentally friendly energy sources. Lighter, durable, and sustainable materials greatly influence the design of aerostructures. An agile A&D production system modernizes legacy programs while rapidly introducing new offerings. Lags in the supply chain are reduced through an effective collaboration environment for integrators and their suppliers. Shared best practices increase transparency. Adopted standards for information sharing improve the interoperability of business technology.  All efforts renew a prime commitment to full operational safety of the fleet.

As the industry’s largest Tier I supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. plays a central role in the new generation A&D work products; designing, building, and testing key components of integrated aerosystems. Spirit establishes a production system ready for a changing industry by devising an enterprise architecture promoting innovation agility. It takes advantage of technical breakthroughs to create a lean digital ecosystem supporting the production lifecycle, including all elements of the supply chain.

Critical for future production is the ability to assess opportunities and predict behaviors through a virtual and collaborative thread of product and process analytics. 

Datasets of requirements, designs, plans, and measures are virtually assembled and marshaled through the production system in parallel to the build of the physical work product. In many cases, process automation leads production automation as modeled by digital twins of work products.

"From conceptualization in the lab to construction in the factory, AI is making all things knowledgeable"

Aerosystems are getting smarter. So too are the methods of producing aerosystems. Artificial Intelligence is the central technology facilitating operational changes. Spirit’s digital transformation effort instills Enterprise Intelligence into the production system. From conceptualization in the lab to construction in the factory, AI is making all things knowledgeable. Digital assistant said in all aspects of the production lifecycle. Some of the operational technology augmented by AI include: designing and analyzing structures and systems, interpreting geometric features, relating features to manufacturing operations, generating work instructions and detailed schedules, augmenting three-dimensional reality and enhancing perception for product fabrication and assembly, simulating production processes, automating inspection and diagnosing quality concerns, adapting and controlling equipment, monitoring inventory and prescribing replenishment policies, stationing resources and planning the movement of material, fusing sensor data and key process indicators to monitor and convey performance, helping managers to wisely allocate resources, calibrating tools and equipment, optimizing machine use and determining maintenance windows, training workers and communicating needed changes, and establishing an enterprise-wide base of knowledge.

Behind the scenes a cloud of informational technology creates a computational infrastructure for systems and data. Systems integration is the backbone that allows disparate software toolsets to communicate with each other.  It also supports the sharing of domain knowledge throughout the lifecycle. Information security measures are in place (again utilizing AI) to detect vulnerabilities. Embedded and augmented systems and data analytics help assess network performance and assure its reliability.

The velocity of change is increasing. While Spirit strives for a lasting ecosystem for aerosystem production, we also need to rapidly recover from disruptions caused by innovation– some which we may instigate through our own applied research. A sound governance approach for technology change that forecasts technology developments and monitors technology, engineering, and manufacturing readiness is imperative to our ability to maintain optimal performance of our production system and recover quickly from disruptive events.

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