Aerospace global performance trends post-pandemic

Research for Cambashi’s Insights, combined with data from its software Observatory, shows that the aerospace manufacturing industry has stood up well through the Covid-19 pandemic and is poised to surpass pre-pandemic levels, indicating a robust recovery.

Leading global commercial aerospace OEMs estimate that global passenger traffic will return to 2019 levels by the end of 2023, or early 2024. This could, in turn, result in production ramp-ups to remediate growing backlogs and drive industry revenue throughout the rest of 2023.

While the civil sector is still returning to pre-pandemic levels, the defence sector remained stable through 2022 and is expected to outperform commercial aerospace. This growth is attributed to the rise in defence budgets following the start of the war in Ukraine, which resulted in a heightened global demand for military equipment.

The recovery of civil, and resilience of defence is reflected in the overall value of the aerospace industry in 2022, which is estimated to be $US700 billion, a substantive rebound from 2020 and the first year to surpass pre-pandemic levels.

However, ongoing supply chain issues and high inflation remain the two largest threats to the industry, with both Boeing and Airbus warning of supply chain issues and production delays.

High inflation poses a significant challenge due to its negative impact on household income and consumer confidence, both of which have an impact on air travel demand. The global aerospace industry is particularly affected because major aerospace producers, such as the US, Eurozone and the UK, bear the majority of the economic impact.

Despite ongoing headwinds, the industry is expected to grow steadily in 2023. This growth will be fuelled by an increase in global passenger traffic and a rise in defence spending. Elevated geopolitical tensions around the world have led to several countries increasing their defence budgets, driving spending on military aircraft.

Understanding the software in aerospace manufacturing

Software plays a major role in the aerospace industry as it is essential to design, simulation, production, supply chain and maintenance activities. The full range of software used includes: CAD for design; CAM for manufacturing planning; CAE for simulation; PLM to manage the product lifecycle; ERP to manage the production/planning and financial processes;           SCM to manage the supply chain; Service Management software to manage service and maintenance.

The market for ‘technical’ software (PLM, MCAD, MCAE, and CAM) used in the aerospace industry is dominated by the US, which generated sales of over $US1.2 billion in 2022, followed by France, Germany, the UK, and China. The top five countries make up more than 85% of the market.

China saw the largest rise in software spend in 2022, an increase of over $US20 million. The growth comes almost exclusively from PLM and CAE software. China’s aerospace industry experienced stronger than expected growth in 2022 and announced a significant increase to its defence budget, both of which should result in a boost to aerospace production, and consequently a greater demand for software.

CAE software made up almost half of all aerospace related technical software sales in 2022, and adoption of the software was a major driver behind China’s impressive technical software growth.

The evolution of simulation

Simulation has long been a cornerstone of aerospace engineering, enabling engineers to virtually recreate and explore complex scenarios before building physical prototypes. This significantly reduces the time, cost and risks associated with traditional trial-and-error based methods.

CAE software, a critical component of simulation, encompasses a range of powerful tools such as Finite Element Analysis (FEA), Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), and Multibody Dynamics (MBD). These tools allow engineers to optimise designs, validate performance and identify potential issues, improving production efficiency and product safety.

The latest advancement in simulation has been the evolution of the digital twin. Digital twins match digital models to physical entities that can range from a single component to an entire aircraft. The ability to virtually explore countless design variations and analyse their performance has led to the creation of more efficient aircraft, lighter and stronger materials, and new propulsion systems.

Moreover, the application of digital twins has been instrumental in enhancing the safety, reliability and sustainability of aerospace operations.

By embracing a digital twin approach, maintenance or upgrades can be planned and tested in detail prior to performing the work and all the correct parts can be obtained in advance – this is particularly important in Aircraft on Ground (AOG) situations. However, supply chain issues affecting the industry mean severe shortages of aircraft parts have resulted in delays to production and maintenance.

NVIDIA, Rolls-Royce, and Classiq have worked together to create a quantum computing circuit for CFD, which is used to improve jet engines. Rolls-Royce plans to use this technology to enhance its simulations of jet engine designs by combining classical and quantum computing methods. This breakthrough is significant for Rolls-Royce as it helps them build advanced, sustainable jet engines to support the transition to cleaner energy in aviation.

Drive towards sustainability

The synergy between simulation, CAE and digital twins is a game-changer in the pursuit of sustainability. These software solutions enable engineers to iterate designs rapidly, assess the impact of design changes and identify the most optimal configurations for fuel efficiency and emissions reduction. By reducing the reliance on physical prototypes and testing, aerospace companies can significantly reduce costs, development time and material waste.

Additionally, these technologies facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the aerospace industry. Engineers and researchers can share data, best practices and insights, fostering innovation and accelerating the adoption of sustainable technologies and practices. The integration of software platforms and cloud-based solutions enables real-time collaboration, global connectivity and the seamless exchange of information, ultimately driving sustainability initiatives on a broader scale.

With their ability to simulate complex systems, predict outcomes and enable continuous monitoring, simulation, CAE and digital twins are empowering the aerospace industry to achieve higher levels of sustainability, paving the way for a greener future in aviation.

Taking advantage of the latest market intelligence

The companies best placed to deal with the challenges and maximize the opportunities in these markets are those who are well prepared and take advantage of tactical aerospace industry intelligence, updated in real-time by industry experts, that provides the latest information from across the globe. 

As well as identifying the different categories of products and grasping the different business strategies, they must also engage with the main areas of change, growth, and risks in the industry.  

In addition, people responsible for employees’ professional development should use training services that lead to industry certifications and proof of expertise in the industry.

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