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DIGICOR Participation in Farnborough Airshow Highlights the Difference in Agendas


One of the key use-cases in the DIGICOR project focuses on enabling collaborations among the manufacturing and logistic SMEs in the aerospace sector. It is therefore important to engage with SMEs to gather their requirements, understand market trends and also to validate the developed solutions. And when it comes to interacting with companies in the aerospace sector, airshows provide the best opportunities. With this in mind, the DIGICOR partner Hanse Aerospace organised an exhibition space for the DIGICOR project at the Farnborough International Airshow (FIA). The project partners from Hanse Aerospace, SME Cluster and Information Catalyst attended the DIGICOR exhibition booth to discuss the project outcomes with target audience and also to disseminate the project in the aerospace community.

The interactions with companies in the FIA provided DIGICOR partners with a wealth of insight into the digitalisation and collaboration needs in the aerospace sector. We have done an analysis of the information gathered from FIA, in conjunction with the information gathered from last month’s EFFRA event where latest platform development initiatives were presented – as covered in the June2018 blog.

The analysis shows that most of the platform development initiative focused on the consumer goods industry and overlooked some of the requirements concerning digital manufacturing in the capital goods industry, where most of the aerospace companies operate.

Our first observation is that a rather low degree of automation in manufacturing SMEs conflicts with the on-going focus on complete digitization and networking of production capacities in the platform initiatives. Particularly in the aerospace manufacturing domain some of the products are still manufactured by hand such as partition walls in an aircraft cabin, simply because it is much cheaper to produce small quantities in large variations. Also, because small independent companies - some of them family businesses - are either unable to invest in automated solutions or don’t see the value coming out of such investments. Therefore, in our view modularity, interoperability, ease-of-use and training must be the essential elements in any project that aims for sustainability of the developed solution and delivering effective industrial impact.

The second observation is that small innovative companies do not even get to a position where they can directly work with OEMs in a close collaborative environment. They often do not meet the purchasing conditions of "big players" and therefore the assumptions of risks (e.g. lack of visibility, rising costs, penalties etc) are less worrying than sustaining business processes. Thus, for SMEs in the aerospace sector finding new business opportunities takes preference over end-to-end connectivity and visibility of activities and processes.

Now with changing trends in the manufacturing sector, SMEs are increasingly recognising the importance of digitisation, particularly the adoption of advance solutions for communication and information exchange. However, most often such solutions come as part of a tightly knitted package, which presents challenges for industrial validation and uptake. Looking at the information and communication technologies, the following questions are relevant for most of the manufacturing SMEs:

  • How can suitable partners/suppliers can be found and integrated into various tiers of the supply chain?

  • Which part of the process should be digitalised?

  • How can fast, targeted and secure communication along the supply chain be ensured for all parties involved?

  • How to assert control over the utilisation (read, write, delete etc) of shared information? And who decides what to share and with whom?

  • How to enshrine trust in the information sharing mechanism? i.e. how the confidentiality and no manipulation of information can be guaranteed?

These are just a few questions of great relevance to the SMEs in the aerospace sector.

DIGICOR is therefore very interested in developing collaborations with different digital platform initiatives with the view to find answers to the above questions. Based on this interest, the project is organising a workshop on Connected Smart Factories - Showcasing Recent Developments in the Smart Manufacturing Arena at the IEEE-IS2018 conference in Madeira on 26th – 27th September (http://www.ieee-is2018.com/).

To submit an expression of interest for participation in the workshop, or for an informal discussion on collaboration opportunities, feel free to get in touch with the project Dissemination and Exploitation Manager at: usman.wajid@informationcatalyst.com

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