Future Of Digitized Aerospace Industry

Future Of Digitized Aerospace Industry

Bruno Cervia VP R&D, Deputy CEO at Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. With over 30 years of experience in the aviation industry, Mr.Cervia heads up a multi-disciplinary international team of 400 specialists from all departments in aircraft development and is responsible for the development and airworthiness of Pilate’s aircraft.

How the aerospace manufacturing landscape have evolved from the last 20 years in light of your experience and how COVID has impacted it?

If we take the past decade into account, we can see that automation technology has been massively dominating the aerospace industry. During the earlier stage of its adoption, automation was limited to only certain processes like CAD modelling where the aircraft designing was carried out more efficiently. But now almost every engineering process in the industry is being automated. In addition, it has expanded the production of CNC (manufacturing of aircraft parts) machining. 3D printing is another technology that has been widely used in CNC machining. We know that in the CNC machine process – manufacturing of aerospace parts – precision is of high importance. Technologies like automation and 3D printing, not only ensure precision but also significantly accelerate the production cycle of the manufacturing process.

That being said, we cannot neglect the impact of the automotive industry on the aerospace landscape in terms of innovations. It is true that most of the advancements in today’s aerospace sector are inspired by way how the automotive industry has implemented technological developments and how they streamline their production processes.

Overall, I would say, all these modern technologies including automation and 3D printing are helping the aerospace sector to reduce errors, reduce production time and costs and thereby improve efficiency.

Now, let’s talk about the supply chain side of this industry. Obviously, there have been immense developments where technological adoptions are offering better ways to improve supply chain efficiency. But after the crisis of COVID-19, the sector has been facing major difficulties. Since the pandemic has forced people to maintain social distancing and work from their own homes. This has affected the quality of products as well as a shortage of products. Ever since the focus has been on how to optimise and increase the robustness of the supply chain.

Another point that I would like to stress is customer experience. Building a solid connection with the customers has become a crucial factor in today’s world.Having effective communication with your customers can help in improving the services, product developments, and maintenance and can significantly offer insight into how to improve efficiency.

Finally, one of the major development in the aerospace industry is the emergence of sustainable fuels. This industry has been trying its best to reduce its carbon emissions. But the challenge is these alternative fuels are not competent enough to substitute traditional fuels completely. Hence, there are studies and researches being conducted on these alternative fuels and hopefully, with the help of the government entities, we can successfully eliminate the risk of traditional fuels.

What are your thoughts about these alternative sustainable fuels and technologies like electrification and hybrid vehicles?

As I mentioned before, alternative fuels are the future. Numerous studies are being conducted where some are confidential and private. Nonetheless, the need for substitute fuels is much needed. In that matter, I would say electrification is an exhilarating development. However, the key issue with implementing this idea is that the energy storage capacity currently in the industry is that of lithium-ion battery which is a bit above 200 Watts. This is where we are currently lacking at. But apart from that, I would say, electrification will be a breakthrough in the aerospace industry.

“Technologies Like Automation And 3d Printing, Not Only Ensure Precision But Also Significantly Accelerate The Production Cycle Of The Manufacturing Process”

Most importantly, with electrification comes the matter of hydrogen issues. Hydrogen comes with complex logistics and hence it needs a lot of tooling and needs to be stored on the ground. This might not be possible in locations in countries where they don’t have enough development. At the same time, producing clean hydrogen is also one of the issues that need to be tackled. Currently, there are not many countries that can offer the amount of energy needed to generate hydrogen. We have to find means to produce clean hydrogen and I think it will take some more time and years to materialise it.

What are some of your advice to the coming generation of the aerospace industry?

My advice will be to serve your customer well. Like any other industry, aerospace also gives its primary focus to its customers. In fact, it is because the customers,OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) like us exist. We can say that, basically this industry is driven by its customers. We should be able to understand the current and future requirements of the customers and equip ourselves to meet their demands. So as a leader, you should possess the skill to listen to your customer the market and predict the future trends. This way, when finally the day comes, you will be able to fulfil your customers’ needs whether it is the acceptance of a new product or the improvements they expect from us.

On the other hand, I would like to stress the importance of a collaborative working environment and that’s what all the ventures in this landscape should follow. It is crucial that there is active and clear communication within the team. The goal and focus should align and the team should work as an entity. When I say active collaboration, I mean both internally and externally too. There should also be clear communication with your customers, key suppliers, and parties involved. The complexity of this industry requires that sort of cooperation for a smooth workflow.

Besides being humble can take you a long way in this business. The complex nature of the aerospace industry requires you to seamlessly cooperate with everyone along the chain of management and with every level of people. You need to possess the attributes of the right soft skills to effectively convey your message to everyone. This gives a chance for you to learn from everyone and teach them your insights too. Such an attitude will certainly contribute to the progress of your business as well.

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