Thought Leadership

Talking Aerospace Today – The Power of the Digital Twin Ep. #1 – Transcript

By Quinn Foster

The newest season of the Talking Aerospace Today podcast has begun, and it starts with an exciting change in the guard. Dale Tutt, Vice President of Industry Strategy for Siemens Digital Industries Software and a longtime speaker on the podcast, welcomed Todd Tuthill, the new Vice President of Aerospace & Defense Strategy, and Patty Russo, Global Marketing Manager and the new host of the podcast, for an extended conversation about the role of the digital twin in the A&D industry, starting with next generation design.

Check out the podcast here or continue below for the full transcript.

Dale Tutt: Hello, and welcome to a new season of Talking Aerospace Today from Siemens Digital Industries Software. I’m Dale Tutt. I’m the Vice President of Global Industries at Siemens Digital Industries Software. I formerly was the Vice President Aerospace and Defense Industry here at Siemens, and I was previously working on Talking Aerospace Today with my partner, Scott Salzwedel. But today I’m excited to introduce the new aerospace team for Talking Aerospace Today. First, I’d like to introduce Todd Tuthill. He’s the Vice President of Aerospace and Defense. He joined Siemens a few months ago. Good afternoon, Todd.

Todd Tuthill: Good afternoon, Dale. It’s great to be here and thank you for the great welcome.

Dale Tutt: And then I’d also like to introduce Patty Russo. She will be the new host for Talking Aerospace Today. And she’s our Global Marketing Manager for the Aerospace and Defense Industry. Hello, Patty.

Patty Russo: Hello, Dale. Good to be with you and Todd. And I’m looking forward to kicking off this episode with you as well.

Dale Tutt: I’m very glad to have both of you here with me today and we’re going to have a lot of fun talking about where things are heading in the aerospace and defense industry and getting some of Todd’s views on digital transformation and how it’s going to help our aerospace and defense customers. First, let’s learn a little bit more about Todd and Patty. So, Patty, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, your background, and how you came to be at Siemens?

Patty Russo: I come to Siemens with a diverse and broad background in marketing, specifically business-to-business and storytelling, strategy content, much in the industry around IT and specifically engineering. I’m new to my role as of June of this year, excited to be here. New to my role, but not new to Siemens; I enjoyed about 17 years supporting a cross-section of solutions and verticals across the company. Much of that work in the aerospace and defense industry, working both with the solutions and the verticals, as I mentioned, as well as customers. So, I’ve talked to quite a few of our customers over the years. And I’m excited to be here officially full-time. Appreciate the opportunity to usher in this next iteration of Talking Aerospace Today with you and Todd, and taking the baton and running with it. I hope to do right by my predecessor, Scott — he did a great job — and appreciate the momentum that he and Dale established with the podcast. So, thanks for the opportunity, and I look forward to a great series of episodes.

Dale Tutt: Great, Patty. Thank you very much. We’re very excited to have you joining the team, and welcome aboard. So, Todd, you come from a strong background in aerospace and defense, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about your past experiences and your career before you joined Siemens?

Todd Tuthill: Thank you, Dale. I’ve been in aerospace my entire career, which is more than 30 years. I’ve been with several companies. I started in aerospace for a company called McDonnell Douglas, which eventually merged with Boeing in St. Louis. My background is in engineering — I’m a Systems Engineer. I’ve done systems engineering on many, many aircraft in my past. Primarily, the work has been in flight control systems engineering. I’ve done a lot of flight control work when I was in St. Louis. I was very involved in the F/A-18 program. If you’ve seen the Top Gun movie, I think of the Super Hornet that was in that movie as my jet. I was involved directly in the development of that aircraft from very, very early on from choosing suppliers, from developing flight control systems. I’ve spent a lot of time in that cockpit, probably more time than Tom Cruise did in the cockpit in the flight sim. So, again, didn’t fly it for real like he did, but spent a lot of time in the cockpit in St. Louis and really got to know it. So, everything in that movie was very familiar to me. So, did that for several years and went on to a program called X-32, maybe one of the less attractive aircraft in the Joint Strike Fighter world. As Boeing lost that program, I went on to change companies after about 15 years there to another company called Moog Aircraft. Moog Aircraft was the prime supplier and integrator of the electro hydrostatic control system for the F-35. They hired me to lead the systems team on that. So I worked in that program for seven years and eventually became the chief engineer for the control system there at Moog on the F-35.

Todd Tuthill: Then moved on from working programs to really being functional leadership and became a director of engineering eventually at Moog for systems software and electronics and really gave me a great opportunity and a broad background to work with kind of the who’s who in aerospace. All the big names got involved in a lot of the aircraft flying today, both commercial and military. When I started in the military, my time at Moog gave me a broad background in commercial aircraft and commercial certification as well. Before I go on to the next thing, I will talk about digitalization. About 10 years ago, while I was still at Moog, working in engineering leadership, became obvious that we really needed to improve our processes and our work in systems engineering. Then I got involved in Model-Based Systems Engineering and in digital transformation, that’s where I was introduced, about 10 years ago, to this whole idea of “Is there a better way to do engineering?” Then after about 17 years at Moog, my wife and I decided, we really needed to change. And I was fortunate enough to secure a great position at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson. And I spent three years working at Raytheon Missile Systems, working on different field of engineering and guidance systems development for missiles, met all kinds of great people and all kinds of great things. But the common theme was still digital transformation, and I was very involved and very passionate about digital transformation at Raytheon as well. And then about four months ago, I met you, Dale, and got this great opportunity to come to Siemens and I just couldn’t be happier to be here. So, thank you for the opportunity, and thank you for passing the baton on the podcast. It’s great to be here.

Dale Tutt: Great background. And again, we’re very happy to have you joining us here at Siemens and the Talking Aerospace Today team. It was such an interesting career. My experience with flight control systems is probably the most complex systems on aircraft today and I guess it was your systems on the F-18 Super Hornet that enabled Tom Cruise to do his 9G pitch-up as he was ending the movie there.

Todd Tuthill: I kind of think that that movie was all about the work I did. That’s what I thought. Listen, my wife would tell you the same, she got tired of me sitting next to her just talking about the movie.

Dale Tutt: I’ll go back and look at the credits and see if they were attributed to you.

Todd Tuthill: I didn’t get credit. I don’t know. Maybe I should have.

Dale Tutt: So what compelled you to move to Siemens, this new role at Siemens? Is there something about what Siemens is doing for A&D customers that really drew you here?

Todd Tuthill: Again, I talked about my work in digital transformation at Moog Aircraft, I talked about my role in digital transformation at Raytheon, and one of the things that I struggled with was really having the ability to tightly integrate our solutions. We were working with Siemens and doing great work with Siemens at Moog and we were a Siemens customer at Raytheon too. At the end of the day, at those companies, we were going to end up with point-to-point solutions and some customized work. I really wanted to influence the industry and have an opportunity to really get in at the ground floor of digital transformation and make significant improvements, not just your contributions – civic contributions not just to one company, but to the whole industry. And when you came along and talked to me about this opportunity at Siemens, I thought, “That’s it. That’s the opportunity I’m looking forward to really work at the heart of digital transformation and really help companies across the industry improve the way they do engineering.” That was the key reason.

Dale Tutt: Well, is there anything in your career that you look at directly or your experience that will benefit you for this role as you start working with our A&D customers here at Siemens?

Todd Tuthill: The first thing that when I think about working with customers is that I’ve been where they’ve been. I’ve had the opportunity, great opportunity, in my career to work with a lot of great people, a lot of great engineers, and a lot of great programs. And a lot of the struggles that they’re having today, I had myself from a lot of the issues they’re dealing with. So I’ve been there, I had the opportunity to work on a lot of aircraft, beyond just Tom Cruise’s aircraft, but a lot of different aircraft in the industry. And I think it gives me the ability to empathize with where they’re at and understand the things they struggle with. And I really see that as one of my primary roles at Siemens is to be the voice of the customer and to bring that experience into the company and say this is the things, the issues, the problems that aerospace companies are looking to partner with Siemens to help.

Patty Russo: Todd, I’m going to jump in and ask a question. The voice of the customer is critically important, especially in this industry, especially as we see so many changes, constant changes, and changes more quickly. So, based on that experience, based on that voice-of-customer experience, what’s the biggest challenge that you see today in the A&D industry? I know there are a lot but if you had to pick one, what would it be?

Todd Tuthill: I guess I’ll talk about a near-term challenge. When I talk to customers, it’s the challenges with the workforce. And especially in the aerospace areas and companies where they’re doing classified work, they’re really struggling with finding all the engineers. So, one of the things that COVID did to companies like aerospace is you’re building real products and you’ve got to come on-site and work with real things. COVID-19 showed us that a lot of companies can do the work from home, work in your pajamas in your home office. And a lot of people decided they didn’t want to drive into an office anymore, and that really affected aerospace in a lot of ways and a lot of really great talented people have left aerospace. At my last count, aerospace companies worldwide are short of more than 20,000 engineers right now. It’s a significant problem. There’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of great innovation, but do we have the engineers to do that?

Patty Russo: So that’s a huge issue, obviously. And you mentioned the idea of working virtually, and that’s a great segue into one of the topics that is near and dear to our hearts, which is the digital twin that’s the virtual representation, obviously, of the real product. And we’ve talked about digital twins for over a decade, if not longer. Many companies do use the digital twin in their product development process. How are they being used now? And how much value are customers currently getting from digital twins? What made me ask this question was your comment about the workforce — can the digital twin help at least address some of the pain related to a shrinking workforce? And how else can they get more value from a digital twin?

Todd Tuthill: At its core, when I think about the digital twin and its purpose, if I’ve got to do something that I’m going to call real in the physical world, there’s a cost to that in terms of the time to create it, in terms of the materials. And I’d like to do that right the first time, I’d like to not have to do a lot of things physically and make a lot of mistakes there. And I really see the primary benefit of a digital twin as this place to learn, this way to experiment, this way to optimize. And the digital twin gives our customers the ability to “I’m going to try it before I fly it” if it’s an aircraft, I want to fly it virtually. If I’m talking about maybe a manufacturing facility, Gee, I don’t want to spend tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars on a manufacturing facility to find out I bought the wrong machines. I’d much rather make that mistake virtually first. So, at its core, a digital twin is a way to learn and optimize. And if I think about it, and I’m a company now, I have products to build, what I don’t want to do is have to do things over and over again, that takes more time, more staff, and more money. So, if I can optimize my process, if I can optimize my product, I can do it right the first time I do it physically, that saves me an enormous amount of time and an enormous amount of money. I can get my product to market faster, and I need fewer people to do it — that’s one but there are many others.

Dale Tutt: From my own personal experience, using simulations, using the digital twin to really prove out your systems before you get into flight test has tremendous benefits. Companies can’t afford to have a big design change in the middle of their flight test program. It might add six to eight months of delay to their program and a lot of costs. So, in my own personal experience, you avoid those design changes and you understand your processes faster. I would almost argue that the amount of investment that you make in your digital twins to save those cost overruns and schedule delays later on in the program, you almost can’t calculate the ROI, it’s so large. It really is a huge benefit for a lot of these companies that are using it.

Patty Russo: So, for the companies that are using it, obviously, they understand the benefit and are seeing outcomes that relate to those benefits. So, if I’m a customer, though, scratching my head and going, “This is great. I hear about this digital twin thing. I’ve been hearing about it for a long time. We haven’t adopted it yet.” If I’m a customer with that mindset, how do I bring that theory to reality? So many challenges can be addressed with a digital twin but there are a lot of customers that haven’t adopted it yet. So, within an organization, what can they do to move forward with bringing that idea of “Yeah, I get it, the digital twin is great” to the reality of “Okay, yeah, I can see some of the benefits that the customers that are using it are achieving.”

Todd Tuthill: I guess I’ll look at the idea of a digital twin or the idea of digital transformation — it’s a journey. It’s a destination that I don’t think any of us will ever perfect. But I would say look at where you’re at, look at the processes you have. Probably if you don’t have a digital twin, most of what you do is document based, it’s not based on models. And I would say, maybe in your mechanical design or electrical design, are using models? Start with this idea of “What are you modeling?” And then, once you get this idea, this model-based start to connect and move that into this world of simulation. At its simplest form, if I’m designing something in mechanical, I’ll do this mechanical design and I’ll understand if I take Part A and Part B, I want to make them inside a digital model to see that they do it. That’s the simplest fundamental thing, maybe the first building block, just to see before I go build these physical parts where they fit together. You build from there, whether mechanically or electrically, and then maybe you want to start looking at “Well, I want to know more beyond just ‘can I build it?’ But I want to know how will it function.” And start looking at simulation in terms of performance simulation — how will it perform? And I can look at that in a smaller subsystem, and then build it up into a larger system — it’s a journey. If you haven’t started, you’re not going to get there in six weeks. And there’s incremental value in all of those stages. At the simplest stage, I want to cut two pieces of metal, let me make sure they’ll fit together before I cut them.

Dale Tutt: I agree with Todd, it’s a journey and there is a learning process. When you think about the digital twin and how you really leverage it to do your business operations better and more effectively, it’s about your people, your processes, and the technology, the solutions, the modeling tools that you use to actually do that modeling. So, I always like to think that it’s important to be able to bring out-of-the-box solutions as much as possible so that you can more quickly model the characteristics of the system of interest or the product of interest. But then it’s also about connecting it with the digital thread to all the elements, to be able to trace requirements into your models, into your verification processes. So it’s bringing together all of the information insights that you have about your product and linking them together in a way that you’re able to start to automate some of those processes and those workflows. So once you start using the digital twin, as Todd says, you start with one system, you develop, you define it, and maybe you validate it to physical systems. And then as you apply those same techniques, those same methods to the next model, you now have confidence in the predictions that it’s making. So, it is a journey in my experience, and I think a lot of companies’ experience is they get a benefit the first time and the first program they work through, and then they continue to get benefits. So maybe they get 20% the first time and 20% the second time and 20% the third time. And over a while, all those 20% start to add up and really continue to grow and evolve as you go through multiple programs. So, very powerful.

Todd Tuthill: And, Dale, if I could add one more thing to what you said, you mentioned people processes and tools, and I really want to talk about the people side. Certainly, there’s technology and technology is important. But technology alone will help you get to the transformation that you want to find. It really requires organizational change management. I think back to my time at Moog, I had this idea the first time I started a digital transformation that we create some great thing and everyone will love it. It doesn’t work that way; you need to work with people. It’s also good to partner with great companies. And we were fortunate back at Moog to be partnered with Siemens in our digital transformation back 8-10 years ago and got some great advice from Siemens about that and some great help, as well as a number of other companies that we partnered with. So, I’d encourage you to think about your people, think about your processes, think about partnering in the ways other companies can help you. And it’s kind of a holistic thing and do it in stages. Don’t try to live in a vacuum and launch as a big bang.

Patty Russo:  Thank you both for sharing your expertise on the digital twin and digital transformation. Unfortunately we’re out of time today, but we will continue this insightful conversation next time. I’ve been Patty Russo, and I hope you join Todd Tuthill and me on the next episode of Talking Aerospace Today.

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.

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