| CIMdata Aerospace & Defense PLM Action Group Addresses The Big 3
In March of this year global design consulting firm CIMdata launched the Aerospace & Defense PLM Action Group., consisting of major aerospace and defense original equipment manufacturers and selected tier one suppliers. The group was organized to enable companies to join the organization to make more informed business decisions by providing timely and valuable information, insights, and advice, while also offering networking opportunities to companies with similar PLM challenges.
Together the members of this organization has identified three key challenges, that according to James L. Roche, aerospace and defense practice manager, CIMdata, are generally considered to be the top challenges for the aerospace industry. These challenges include global collaboration, PLM integration and obsolescence management.
Image courtesy of CIMdata
James L. Roche, aerospace and defense practice manager, CIMdata
Roche explained that the challenge of creating a system for global collaboration among aerospace stakeholders is primarily being hindered by the need for uniform data standards. Because aircraft are so much more complex than many other products they require aerospace and defense companies to maintain a complicated web of relationships between different suppliers and part designers, all of whom are using their own data standards and procedures, but who also have to come together at the end of the day to bring all of the parts together into a functional whole.
“Aerospace companies need to be able to provide their suppliers not just with the information for the component they are responsible for,” said Roche. “But also the overall context that component will work in so they can understand its role in the overall design.”
Right now it is very difficult for that level of communication to take place because each stakeholder in the aerospace design project is working with their own data standards and procedures that may or may not communicate effectively with each other. This can lead to the loss of key information and valuable context, which can in turn lead to time consuming re-work or even costly errors.
Roche said that while the Aerospace & Defense PLM Action Group is in the early stages of defining and finding a solution to this problem the general thinking seems to be that the answer is to begin developing procedures that focuses on explicitly outlining what data is being communicated and what information is needed in response. In this way stakeholders can hope to better understand if and when mission critical data is being lost in the communication process and how to best rectify any communication issues as they occur.
The issue surrounding PLM integration focuses on how to help aerospace companies derive more value from their PLM implementations by integrating systems that are not traditionally associated with PLM into the overall architecture. This includes concepts such as change management and service lifecycle management.
According to Roche, most major aerospace companies make a major investment in PLM, either changing to a new system or upgrading their current system, roughly every five to 10 years. But in more recent iterations of this cycle aerospace companies have been spending more money and seeing smaller returns on their investments. The reason for this appears to be because the traditional PLM components have reached the limits of what they can offer.
The companies that are deriving the most benefit from their PLM investment appear to be the companies that are spending their efforts on expanding their system to integrate other less traditional systems, such as configuration management, requirements management and change management solutions. “The companies that are investing outside of the core PLM toolset are the organizations that are getting the most return from their expenditures,” said Roche.
Obsolescence management focuses on researching how companies can reduce the costs generated by the rapid obsolescence of PLM systems. Each time an aerospace company has to cycle out their existing system because its architecture is out of date or because it is no longer supported by its developers it costs the company tens of millions of dollars. “The aerospace companies are to protect themselves from these costs but so far they have not found a good solution,” said Roche.
Looking forward Roche said that in addition to working on the big three issues, the aerospace industry is likely to begin taking an increased interest in digital factory planning. A solution that allows companies to plan and optimize their manufacturing processes using digital simulation tools to create test examples of their factories and evaluate the best possible methods for producing their products. “I don’t think this technology has quite reached the point where companies are really focused on it yet,” said Roche. “But I expect that trend to change over the next three to five years.”
Another trend that Roche said he expects to see the industry begin adopting is the development of PLM technologies that track and evaluate an aircraft’s performance after it has been delivered to the customer. This allows aerospace companies to predict and solve potential maintenance issues before they occur and thereby reduce the cost of their resolution. “I think this level of integration between PLM and existing products will begin to grow substantially,” said Roche. “And in turn we will see many new products from the software developers to meet this demand.”
John Myers graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in Communications and Journalism. He began writing about the mechanical computer-aided design (MCAD) and product lifecycle management (PLM) industry in 2006 and over the last seven years has covered topics as diverse as additive manufacturing, finite element analysis (FEA), data translation and migration, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), building information modeling (BIM) and the growing alternative energy industry.
He currently resides in Albuquerque, NM with his wife where in his free time he enjoys reading, writing and pandering to his dogs.