An interesting transformation in manufacturing is now underway within the aerospace industry. The catalyst for this transformation was when Boeing announced as much as 50 percent of the primary structure – including the fuselage and wing – on their new 787 Dreamliner will be made of composite materials. They claim the airplane will use 20 percent less fuel, travel at speeds similar to today’s fastest wide bodies while also providing more cargo revenue capacity for the airlines.
For aerospace manufacturers or suppliers, the world changed very quickly afterwards, from materials to processes and best practices. New best practices have not yet been clearly defined; bill of materials and processes are in a state of flux. The bottom line is that greater flexibility is needed to help navigate this transition, confirming that paper-based tracking systems are now obsolete.
Another factor to consider is that part of the A&D transformation is the need for highly detailed traceability. Not only must aerospace manufacturers understand exact genealogy of their supplier’s parts and processes, but they must be able to document this process within a highly dynamic work flow environment, where engineering “as-designed” plans are continuously being modified in the transition to “as-builts,” from the eBOMs to the mBOMs. And, let’s not forget about the “as-maintained” data that must be kept current, despite the countless options and variables that make virtually every final product unique.
The next few years will be an exciting time for Aerospace and Defense manufacturers.