In 2015, the UK defence industry recorded a £200M growth in turnover. With employee numbers and exports rising, manufacturers in aerospace and defence are looking for ways to manage product development while avoiding unexpected costs. Here, Bob Hillier, Managing Director of Product Lifecycle Management expert Design Rule, explains how PLM is changing the face of aerospace and defence manufacturing.
The aerospace and defence industry continues to be an increasingly competitive market. To flourish in this global environment, suppliers must deliver on cost and schedule commitments while meeting ever more demanding requirements. Too often, projects experience high design change rates when the product first enters production and again when it enters service.
One of the main concerns for manufacturing companies in the defence sector is the possibility of data ending up in the wrong hands. Fines for the accidental release of data can be extremely costly and the long-term damage can be truly detrimental. However, product development teams need to be able to share relevant data with other departments and authorised users; if this data-sharing does not take place then the product development process becomes very slow and inefficient.
A unique source of truth also reduces the likelihood of errors and ensures a project is completed correctly and efficiently the first time around. To solve the problem of confidential data protection, manufacturers can implement a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) platform that imposes rule-based control on the type of data each user can access.
Better data management isn’t the only advantage of using PLM in the defence sector. PLM manages complex, cross-functional processes by helping coordinate teams in different locations, allowing them to consistently and effectively develop new products. PLM supports the product development process, integrating people, processes and systems. It acts as a single source of truth, and a platform that all authorised parties can easily access and understand.
Shortening development cycles
Manufacturers in the defence sector need to keep costs low and cut time to market, while optimising product performance. To meet these challenges, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are relying on global partners to maximise product development and product expertise. As teams spread out across different locations, managing a project becomes more complicated and brings new challenges.
PLM allows businesses to manage customer requirements and ensure they are all met in the agreed time frame. It also means manufacturers can shorten development cycles by removing the need for paper-based approval systems and streamlining collaboration between global teams.
Eliminating unexpected costs
The defence sector works to very strict deadlines. This means each stage of product development has to finish on time, otherwise manufacturers and suppliers can be fined and partnerships can be jeopardised.
PLM allows design engineers and manufacturers to carry out product design, redesign and simulation in virtual environments. This means suppliers don’t have to work sequentially and products can be tested while they are still being developed. PLM also acts as a management platform for all parties that are involved.
Each stakeholder in a project knows where they fit into the development cycle and what they need to do to keep the process moving.
Where do we go from here?
As the industry evolves, Product Lifecycle Management software is able to adapt and keep up with the times. A good PLM supplier should be able to recommend the best software package and adapt it to fit customer requirements.
If the current level of growth continues, the defence industry will be worth over £29Bn by 2020. However, this growth is only sustainable if manufacturers improve their product development technology and processes to lower costs and decrease time to market.
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