In this latest episode of Talking Aerospace Today, Todd Tuthill, Vice President of Aerospace and Defense (A&D) Industry for Siemens Digital Industries Software, closes out the tour of the automation stage of digital transformation maturity with some final words on authoritative automation.
According to Todd, authoritative automation, the act of reducing complex, expensive physical tasks by expanding and automating what engineers can do virtually, is critical to the future of the A&D industry. He uses this episode to give an example of how it has already improved an aerospace program, why the industry needs authoritative automation’s benefits, and the skills and knowledge necessary to bring it into fruition.
Authoritative automation in action
While still not common in the A&D industry, authoritative automation has already made inroads in a few aerospace programs. Todd points to an example mentioned in Dr. Will Roper’s report, “There is No Spoon,” from which the term authoritative automation originates. In the report, the Boeing T7A program is described as one of the first programs to be built digitally along the lines of digital transformation and authoritative automation. The result was a 75 percent increase in first-time quality and an 80 percent reduction in assembly hours compared programs built traditionally, an incredible improvement.
Why authoritative automation?
The A&D industry is in need of such strong breakthroughs if it wishes to successfully navigate its new era of growth and opportunities. As mentioned in previous episodes, the industry is experiencing significant investments across all sectors from commercial to space, a phenomenon not seen for decades. Research into new technologies is expected to create new forms of sustainable aviation, as well as bring humanity back to the moon and eventually to Mars. There are simply so many exciting developments being done in the A&D industry.
The problem, according to Todd, is that the engineers needed to carry out these innovations do not exist, and will not exist if the industry continues doing things the way it has been. An engineer shortage is currently gripping the industry with one out of every ten engineering positions being unfilled, and that number is expected to increase to one out of every five positions in the next decade. The benefits of authoritative automation offer a solution to this problem, not only by increasing the impact of engineers to make up for numbers, but also by creating a new work environment empowered by cutting-edge technology to attract new engineers.
Learning the know-how
Of course, successfully implementing authoritative automation in engineering processes will require people to learn new skills.
One of these skills, which Todd considers extremely important, is keeping an open mind. Between the many complex innovations and obstacles happening in the A&D industry right now, engineers will need to be able to think about things in new ways that had not been thought about before and be willing to take risks. One of the biggest obstacles to automation is a lack of trust, a belief that it will take away jobs, and while these are reasonable responses, the reality is different. Instead, Todd states technologies like authoritative automation will change the way people do their jobs and—if done successfully—for the better.
The other skill Todd suggests engineers start learning is utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML). Engineers will not be typing into an interface asking for an aircraft design and receiving a fully generated layout of a plane any time soon, but AI/ML is already revolutionizing software and will continue to revolutionize engineering processes. AI/ML will also be critical for advanced forms of automation, as well as the future stages of digital transformation maturity, generative design and closed-loop optimization.
A true transformation
Authoritative automation can significantly improve the quality and efficiency of engineering processes in the A&D industry. This will be crucial as the industry moves forward with its numerous innovations across all sectors while dealing with obstacles like its engineer shortage. Adopting authoritative automation will require changes among the kind of skills and work its engineers will need to perform, but such changes will ultimately lead to a better working environment and revolutionary opportunities in the future of aerospace.
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 – Accelerating transformation.