According to global survey data released by Deloitte Insights, 84% of aerospace and defense executives said they considered leveraging new digital technologies as key to market differentiation. However, only a quarter of the aerospace and defense companies surveyed are currently using these technologies and tools to access, manage, analyze and leverage data from their digital assets to inform decision-making in real time.

The impacts of digitalization and evolving customer needs are reshaping industries at a rapid pace. Although the aerospace industry has historically been slower to adapt automated processes over manual ones, it is imperative that we begin to proactively embrace a more digital approach if we wish to stay relevant in a competitive industry driven by specifications and qualifications.

Aerospace manufacturing involves various levels of complexity – from small batch sizes to mass customization – which can lead to quality control and on-time delivery challenges. Automation of manufacturing processes can not only reduce these pain points, but it can also improve safety and productivity for those within the industry.

The impacts of digitalization and evolving customer needs are reshaping industries at a rapid pace

Many organizations have already started to place a greater emphasis on the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 (the use of automation and data exchange in manufacturing), as well as interconnectivity through the Internet of Things (IoT), access to real-time data, 3D printing and augmented reality to create smarter and more efficient processes. For example, at PPG we are in the process of utilizing LEAN manufacturing tools to drive automation by way of digital work instructions, AI technologies and use of robotics on our shop floors, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) monitoring and reporting and quality assurance automation. PPG is also working towards networking multiple standalone unit operations within the business’ Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, including but not limited to the integration of IoT machines.

Effective implementation of Industry 4.0 and other autonomous systems won’t happen overnight, as these initiatives require well-defined, high-level strategies in order to be successful. It also won’t be without its challenges – limited internal expertise, budget overruns and inefficient data quality are just some of the hurdles that companies might be faced with throughout the implementation process.

From shop floors to top floors, the fourth industrial revolution is set to change the way the aerospace and defense industries operate – and ready or not – we all must prepare for takeoff.