4 tips for Aerospace and Defense 4.0

Features - Automation / Industry 4.0 Target Guide

Connectivity, configurability, intelligence, and security efforts can boost manufacturing performance.

August 26, 2019


Aerospace & Defense (A&D) 4.0 uses Industry 4.0 technology to develop new cost-effective products and services, to make existing products smarter using sensors and connectivity, and to leverage advanced manufacturing. It plays a central role in BAE Systems’ New Product and Process Development Center, where engineers use 3D printing and virtual reality (VR) technology to reduce costs and speed manufacturing for combat aircraft. Still, A&D 4.0 may seem daunting for many manufacturers, particularly Tier 2 and Tier 3 companies that play a vital role in the manufacturing ecosystem but lack manpower and monetary resources. This doesn’t need to be the case.

There are four key areas that highlight where the right software can help manufacturers deliver on an A&D 4.0 strategy and future-proof businesses.

1. Connectivity

The digital thread enables a connected flow of data and an integrated view of an asset across its lifetime through various isolated functional perspectives and multiple factory walls. According to LNS Research, the digital thread can increase supply chain efficiency by 16% and reduce time required to take a product to market.

Manufacturers also have increased revenue by extending asset management to supply and service customer assets. This brings in contracts with service level agreements (SLAs), and the best way to manage these contracts is to provide a mobile platform for field workers and data feedback from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). A&D manufacturers must rely heavily on enterprise software to provide this level of connectivity.

Software can connect users to an increasingly digital supply chain ecosystem via seamless interoperability with other systems through an open integration framework or through pre-built solutions that meet government or industry integration standards.

Servitization-based business models that are becoming common among A&D manufacturers introduce direct customer connectivity requirements. This includes IoT, customer systems, in-house customer relationship management, and connectivity with third-party contractors. Enterprise software must connect field-based requirements and specific asset and service management functions to bring the data streams together.

2. Configurability

With manufactured parts and assets performing highly specific roles in military and aerospace projects, A&D customers demand precise delivery schedules and significant customization. A key differentiator for A&D manufacturers is having a wide range of project capabilities, being able to operate on multiple projects that each have their own complexities. Reacting to customer requirements requires agility, and if software cannot adapt, long delays can occur.

Broad functional capability in enterprise software should include fundamental manufacturing capabilities and flexible financial controls, particularly around complex A&D assets, such as project-driven work and quality management.

Once A&D manufacturers have reliable functions, they must ensure they can deploy them modularly and configure them to adapt to unique customer requirements and internally driven lean initiatives. This could mean configuring separate screens and interfaces for executives looking at overall performance and engineers logging granular information into the software.

Companies can also introduce Industry 4.0 manufacturing processes into the factory such as additive manufacturing (AM) machines with specialized requirements for material control and process monitoring.

3. Intelligence

A&D products generate vast amounts of information – for example, the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engine creates 4 million data points on every flight. For every system, telemetry has value. A&D companies should leverage this information for designing, manufacturing, operating, and developing new, smarter business models.

Standing still means losing out against more forward-looking competitors, particularly as connected machines become standard, and Industry 4.0 technologies such as AM, artificial intelligence (AI), VR, and augmented reality (AR) mature and deliver growing returns on investment (ROIs). For example, mixed reality (MR) technologies such as the Microsoft Hololens have contributed greatly to training programs. IFS partner PTC and BAE Systems created interactive MR work instructions for the HoloLens that enabled BAE to train its first-line workers 30% to 40% more efficiently. Enterprise information technology (IT) life cycles are long-term investments that can last decades.

As intelligent technology grows in A&D manufacturing, supporting software must keep pace. Locking into an inflexible system can prevent manufacturers from capitalizing on new tech initiatives.

Manufacturers should consider evergreen software built for compatibility through open integration standards. The goal should be to change IT operations from manual to automated processes, driven by intelligent software.

4. Security

According to PwC’s 2015 Global Airline CEO Survey, 85% of commercial airline CEOs viewed cybersecurity as a significant risk, likely reflecting the highly sensitive nature of flight systems and passenger data.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has revealed plans for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification – a set of contractor cybersecurity standards – scheduled to be implemented by January 2020. Companies supplying products and services to the DOD must meet 110 security requirements specified in NIST SP 800-171 or risk losing contract awards and new regulation, and the new requirements are not likely to be more lenient. Other countries have followed suit, including the UK with the Defense Information Strategy (DIS) and Australia with the Information Security Manual (ISM). The cybersecurity challenge becomes even more sensitive when combined with increasing cloud-based solutions, security implementations of access control, and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

Regulatory-compliant software can be a key differentiator when bidding for A&D manufacturing contracts. Enterprise software should be a strategic enabler for information and cybersecurity, be designed with security in mind, and address risks and threats throughout the software development life cycle.

Recent cloud infrastructure has already produced workarounds for the cloud security challenge, including Microsoft, which has made its Azure cloud platform ISO compliant.

Recent cloud infrastructure has already produced workarounds for the cloud security challenge, including Microsoft, which has made its Azure cloud platform ISO compliant.

A fully compliant software partner positions A&D manufacturers to compete well in an increasingly complex digital arena.


In an Industry 4.0 world, A&D manufacturers face critical decisions directly linked to business success, and potential benefits include increased efficiency, profits, security, and customer satisfaction. However, these benefits can’t be realized without the support of a software facilitator, which helps A&D manufacturers build and execute an Aerospace & Defense 4.0 strategy.


BAE Systems

About the author: Evan Butler-Jones is director, Defense Product Line, Aerospace & Defense Business Unit, IFS and can be reached at evan.butler-jones@ifsworld.com