The Aerospace & Defense (A&D) industry produces some of the most complex products on the planet. Not only do they have long service lives and operate in extreme conditions, but they also integrate increasingly advanced software and electronics systems. These challenges are difficult enough on their own, but concurrent industry-wide demands for consistently new technologies and accelerated production cycles makes overcoming them even more rigorous. Many companies are finding that the traditional development process used in A&D, called “waterfall development,” is too inflexible to deal with such rapid changes. Instead, they are turning to agile development empowered by digital transformation. Agile development allows for more flexible development processes, while digital transformation enhances it with features like seamless exchanges of data and simulation tools.
Why agile development?
Agile development is a flexible approach to product development that accounts for rapid or unforeseen changes throughout the whole process. It is the opposite of the traditional waterfall development approach, a rigid step-by-step process where each predefined step cannot proceed until the previous one is completed. This leaves little room for changes made partway through, and when changes are made, they are often costly and result in scrapping previous work or ignoring new shifts in the market. In the worst case, this could potentially mean releasing a product that no longer meets market demands. In contrast, agile development divides the design process into parallel work cycles called “sprints.” Each sprint consists of a team that designs, analyzes, optimizes, and validates their own element of the larger product to be integrated at a later point. The teams communicate regularly during and between these sprints to stay up to date with each other’s work, which allows a constant assessment of each component of the product development cycle. This incremental approach gives engineering teams more room to adapt to sudden changes no matter when they appear during the process.
Digitally empowered agile development
To truly get the most out of agile development, however, simultaneously enacting a digital transformation will help companies create continuous data sharing among their teams. A true digital transformation goes beyond simply moving digital documents and records between individuals. It is an effort to build a larger digital thread that seamlessly transmits data across every aspect of a product’s lifecycle, including design, manufacturing, and operation. This digital thread would allow the teams of different sprints to better coordinate their solutions with each other. All involved teams would have access to this thread and could use it to inform decisions regarding their individual sprints while making sure their solution will easily integrate with the solutions of other teams. A digital transformation would ensure all teams and their designs remain interconnected with each other, allowing them to better navigate late changes and make a well-integrated final product.
Simulative technologies like the digital twin are another aspect of digital transformation that would greatly enhance agile development. With the digital twin, the engineers of a sprint can build a virtual representation of their individual solutions, from its various components to how it would be manufactured. They can then simulate all those factors to identify and evaluate different design options. When that team’s solution is ready, they can simulate it with a virtual form of the fully integrated product and see how it interacts with the results of other sprints. These simulations would help engineers make crucial design decisions and decrease development times all while reducing risk, letting them progress through the development process faster. While application of simulation tools is not exclusive to agile development, the flexibility and saved time it provides makes it an excellent addition to such processes.
The future of the industry
A transition to digitally empowered agile development can help A&D companies achieve success as the industry demands more advanced products and accelerated development cycles. Its incremental approach to product development, combined with interconnected digital threats and simulation technologies, will give engineers the ability to rapidly adapt to changes made during development and deliver a fully integrated final product sooner. The industry may be changing swiftly, but that’s precisely why agile development is rising to become the industry standard.
Check out this white paper to learn more about the benefits of agile development.
Siemens Digital Industries Software helps organizations of all sizes digitally transform using software, hardware and services from the Siemens Xcelerator business platform. Siemens’ software and the comprehensive digital twin enable companies to optimize their design, engineering and manufacturing processes to turn today’s ideas into the sustainable products of the future. From chips to entire systems, from product to process, across all industries, Siemens Digital Industries Software is where today meets tomorrow.