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Intelligent Industry: The backbone of creativity in Aerospace and Defense innovation

Mike Dwyer
28 June 2023

In aerospace and defense, we often find ourselves engrossed in discussions about the various pieces and products that make our organizations intelligent. We focus on the latest technologies, cutting-edge gadgets, and innovative advancements.

Indeed, intelligent industry makes companies more efficient and drives competitive advantage, but how you bring that into the business is as important as how you put it onto your products. 

You must also create a mindset of excellence and a way of working that enables people to harness the power of intelligent industry. We need to instill a sense of pride and competitiveness among engineers, where they take personal ownership of what they build and understand the purpose behind their creations.

Ahead of our Chalet at the Paris Air Show, we aim to convey the essence of intelligent industry as not merely a collection of products. It is about unblocking barriers and embracing new possibilities. It is about nurturing a culture that encourages creativity, fosters innovation, and attracts diverse talent.[1] 

Why internal alignment is necessary

If your organization is not internally equipped to match the speed and innovation of companies like Tesla and Airbus, how can you hope to outperform your competition?  It is not enough to simply possess intelligent products. What truly matters is how we integrate and leverage those products within our organizations. Are we equipped internally to match the intelligence of the products we offer to our clients?

You can have the most innovative ideas and powerful technology for your product, but if you’re not internally aligned to keep pace, you won’t get far or last long. 

Being mired in slow and inefficient processes hinders progress and stifles creativity. This is where the essence of intelligent industry becomes profoundly personal to me. Its purpose is to remove the obstacles that obstruct us, eliminating the barriers that lead us to believe, “I can’t do it.” Instead, we can confidently declare, “I can do it now, and here’s how.”  We work to find avenues that are safe, robust, and most of all – brilliant.

Intelligent industry also opens us up to new entrants with a diverse set of skills that go beyond traditional mechanical expertise, such as digital proficiency, software transformation, and the emerging metaverse. Yes, engineering skills are just as important (you still need a top-of-the-line submarine or tank). Still, it is this fusion of hardware and software that empowers us to create groundbreaking products and drive innovation in the aerospace and defense industry.

The backbone of creativity – how intelligent industry can foster innovation

Intelligent industry means we can focus on returning to why we do what we do – to solve problems creatively –  except now we can leverage that with data, testing, and digital-first technologies.

With new tools at our disposal, we can now solve problems more efficiently and expeditiously. We can leverage generative AI, Digital Twins, and design tools to explore endless possibilities and conduct virtual tests before committing to physical production. This is an exhilarating phase that opens up new avenues for innovation. By combining rigorous testing methodologies with our experience, we ensure that the final product not only meets performance expectations but has been thoroughly explored and refined.

In many ways, this approach mirrors the ethos of motorsports like Formula One and Indycar, where creativity and ingenuity reign supreme. The key is to think swiftly and continually iterate on solutions, whether they pertain to manufacturing processes, supply chain optimization, or fitting components seamlessly. This relentless pursuit of excellence enables us to streamline operations, achieve leaner outcomes, and execute with utmost precision.

A catalyst for change in skills and systems

Intelligent industry catalyzes transformative change, not only in systems and processes but also in the skills and mindset required for success. We are witnessing a growing demand from our clients for young graduates and apprentices who bring fresh perspectives and diverse backgrounds, even without extensive industrial experience. These individuals become the champions of innovation within our industry.

One aspect that deserves special attention is neurodiversity. We must embrace a wide range of skills and backgrounds to drive progress. If we continue to think within the confines of our existing frameworks, we risk stagnation. We must incorporate diverse perspectives and challenge our orthodoxies to truly adopt a digital-first approach and break free from conventional thinking. The time bomb is ticking, and in the next decade, the loss of essential skills like manufacturing engineering and quality engineering could have dire consequences. As an industry, we must actively promote the acquisition of these skills and facilitate their application through advanced tooling, streamlined processes, and data utilization. By doing so, we empower our workforce to go beyond mere procedural tasks and fully embrace their creative potential, delivering exceptional outcomes. The responsibility rests upon us to shift our way of working and cultivate a culture that values innovation.

Simultaneously, we should automate non-value-added activities and dispel the notion of never touching a running system. Embracing digitization across the board becomes the new norm, driving efficiency and enabling a truly transformative environment.

Building a digital culture

Building a digital culture entails immersing ourselves in data, understanding the structure of the products we are developing, and recognizing the ongoing need for a digital-first mindset. However, there is still a long way to go in instilling this culture within OEMs, tier one and tier two suppliers, as it is crucial for driving digital convergence and continuity. The supply chain is directly influenced by the expectation and demand for a digital approach, which stakeholders rightfully seek.

To go beyond being at the forefront and to establish a national competitive advantage, we must collectively accelerate investments in new skills while fostering a digital culture that serves our strategic interests. This requires embracing new methodologies, outcome-based commercial models, and corresponding organizational structures. Moreover, it necessitates the support of core functions that drive value and digital IT services.

In the words of Dr. Will Roper, “In today’s era of volatility… The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable; everything else you create, somebody else will replicate.” As leaders and experts, we must enhance our skill sets and adapt our organizational culture. Should the Chief Information Officer (CIO) also serve as the Chief Digital Officer (CDO)? Have Chief Engineers and Operations Directors incorporated digital innovation, experimentation, and development into their delivery plans?

We must acknowledge that the next CEO and engineering leaders may not emerge from the traditional demographic or the graduates of prestigious institutions. They may come from unexpected backgrounds. As leaders, we need to be open and adaptable to different leadership styles. Our succession plans should reflect this non-linear path of talent acquisition and development.

Intelligent Industry at  the Paris Air Show

The general public doesn’t typically associate creativity with our industry. It’s a shame really because we’ve solved a lot of problems in some amazing ways.  So how do we bridge this gap in perception? We must harness the tools at our disposal to reintroduce creativity into every facet of our work.

Intelligent industry serves as the platform for unleashing this creativity. It extends beyond innovative product designs to encompass the manufacturing systems and supply chain. It is time to embrace intelligent industry as a transformative force that revolutionizes our products and daily work practices. By leveraging intelligent industry, we can infuse creativity into every aspect of our operations, bringing about a paradigm shift in the way we approach and execute our work.

Intelligent Industry was one of our themes for the 54th Annual Paris Air Show, We had the opportunity to have a conversation around Intelligent Industry, and what a strategy for connectivity can look like for your organization at the Paris Air Show.

Capgemini at Paris Air Show 2023

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