As the “Industrial Internet” and The Internet of Things (IOT) go beyond the buzz-words of the board room, aerospace manufacturers and industrial leaders have started to implement some of the latest technology to make their manufacturing processes more efficient with reduced errors, deliver products to market more rapidly and finally leverage big data within their own organization. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are both mediums at which the industries are looking at to make work instructions easier and training more adaptive; these applications can provide “green” talent with contemporary tools and improve the production process. Augmented and Virtual Reality experiences have been created for the entertainment and gaming industries and for various marketing and brand awareness campaigns, nonetheless they still a way to go to influence the aerospace community.
So, with early adoption and various use cases testing the productivity gains within the enterprise, how has Augmented Reality impacted the aerospace shop floor, and what technologies are necessary for its adoption to accelerate?
Industry giants like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Applied Materials have invested in the development of both AR hardware and software solutions and have side projects and secretive labs dabbling with head-mounted wearables, light projections, telepresence or remote assist and SDKs to improve costs, time of task and error reductions on the shop-floor. The good news is that AR hardware and software are improving at a tremendous rate with the help of these use cases and investments. The capability of smart-glasses, smartphones and tablets are making astonishing strides in computational, graphical and sensory power with clearer, higher resolution displays and improvements to battery life enabling easier ways to consume and create AR and VR content. Some limiting factors that developers are dealing with is the amount of available memory and battery power on portable devices. Network latency also requires careful consideration when system architecture dictates whether this content should be stored on the device or a remote content server.
The future of Augmented Reality (AR) in the Enterprise however is a bit clearer today as the result of the recent DMDII/AREA Requirements Workshop in Chicago. At first glance, the two-day event promised to be a worthwhile exchange among parties with shared interests. On one side was the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), which had invested considerable time and effort into creating a detailed set of requirements for enterprise AR with the assistance of American industry heavyweights Lockheed Martin, Procter & Gamble, and Caterpillar. On the other side was the AREA, the organization leading global efforts to drive adoption of AR in the enterprise. The AREA is to take over responsibility for the requirements document and its future.
But when the parties gathered in Chicago in the beginning of March, the event proved to be more significant than anyone could have expected. Here’s why:
Today, leading organizations around the globe are making major commitments to the process of business transformation. The goal of the reshaping effort is to minimize risk, and achieve greater efficiency, profitability and agility – all vital ingredients for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in a number of verticals. Engineering Services Outsourcing (ESO) is an end-to-end solution and a strong business case can be built to an outsourcing partner with the expertise, experience, technology and customer focus to deliver benchmark capabilities based on industry’s best practices. Major aspects have channelized a new trend in ESO; the sheer diversity of engineering services, the outlook that most outsourcing will turn toward an engineering Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) offering and the pressing need for cost control in yet to be stabilized global markets that are still running on budget austerity efforts.
Many of the largest OEMs in North America and Western Europe have considered ESO as an extension of their engineering organization. According to data collected in 2014, India-based providers have accounted for nearly a quarter of the overall engineering services market, which is worth approximately $80 billion a year. The Indian ESO industry has been made up of Global Engineering Centers (GECs) and engineering services providers (ESPs). Half of the top research and development (R&D) spenders operate in India through these GECs.
Recent advances in sensor technology, wireless communications, distributed computing and big-data capabilities are enabling the Internet of Things (IoT) to rapidly transform the technology landscape. IT and embedded electronics are permeating the product and service engineering process, and consumers’ expectations and requirements are increasing just as rapidly. Organizations in all industries must now deal with a profusion of data and devices. This new challenge is creating unique opportunities for ESO providers to create intelligent engineering applications to customize and monitor the entire product experience; ideas like the connected car, real-time and continuous healthcare and remote monitoring of smart homes.
Engineering and designers are creating products that capture their own usage data and establish a continuous feedback loop. This way they can make their products more intelligent, and OEMs can increasingly deliver their products as-a-service and use software applications to define the customer experience and product evolution. Companies typically outsource their engineering and design when they have sporadic engineering needs, need to load balance the work and may have trouble getting to those important projects. Manufacturers reasons to outsource are: (1) They can’t justify having their own engineering team for every design project, (2) they have an internal team with capability and capacity but need to manage spiking demand or they require specialized expertise.
ESO will be characterized by the “integration of manufacturing” as a required field of expertise. As the industrial internet becomes more secure, industrial automation, robotics and 3D printing will enable a new dynamic and a new knowledge and talent base. As an example with GE Aviation and Honeywell, the resource landscape is changing. Half of their workforce consists of Chemical / Electronic / Mechanical engineers, the other half are software engineers. This integration requires a newly defined skill set and expertise consistent to with the digital approach to manufacturing.
A wave of engineering services should present itself in two phases in the coming years:
Managed, Shared or BPO Services contracts will move away from the traditional engagement models to demand more value and tighter service integration including pricing aligned with client business metrics, stringent service-level agreements and key performance indicators. This way the business model will shift toward greater sharing of risk and reward between the customer and the service provider.
Gates L. Scott
Gates L. Scott is a Senior Land Executive with World Fuel Services developing new markets and delivery fuel management solutions through the Front Range of Colorado and beyond. A former Certified Flight Instructor and commercial helicopter pilot and aviation enthusiast, he loves anything that flies!
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