The journey to industry 4.0 for many large companies is about learning how to embrace and use digital technologies to solve problems in ways not previously possible. It is as much about cultural change as it is about employing new technologies to create smarter, more efficient processes.
Bristol-based digital agency, Calvium, designs and develops robust mobile solutions that deliver business-critical services. The company has been working with Rolls-Royce since 2015 and has developed a number of bespoke products to improve the company’s performance. This long-term partnership started with Calvium running an innovation workshop to do ‘Visualisation Apps for Services’ and most recently has seen both companies team up to deliver a pioneering app to report foreign object debris (FOD) around military airfields as part of MRO operations.
According to IATA in 2018, the global spend on MRO was approximately $69 billion with 43% of that figure relating to engines. FOD costs the global aerospace industry around $4.4bn a year and this does not account for potential costs repairing the damage FOD can cause.
Rolls-Royce was keen to identify ways of using mobile technology to provide game-changing services for its clients. On take-off, any FOD can get sucked into an aircraft’s engine causing catastrophic damage. Runways must be checked periodically to ensure they are clear of debris. On military bases, personnel carry out FOD patrols. Anything found is picked up, bagged, labelled and reported to the FOD officer. Similar procedures exist for civil airports. Calvium has digitalised this process in line with Industry 4.0 updates to industry.
“The FOD app allows debris to be photographed, logged and reported in seconds,” states Jo Reid, managing director of Calvium. “Imagine a scenario where a nut is found on the ground that’s come out of the aircraft, the speed with which you can diagnose where the nut is from and then let somebody know about a potential problem with their fuselage or undercarriage could have far reaching safety implications. It’s a potential life-saver.”
This innovative use of mobile technology can contribute to the MRO programmes across the industry.
The genesis of the Rolls-Royce app began with an innovation workshop. These sessions encourage people to appreciate the practical capabilities of digital technologies and how they can enhance their business. Rolls-Royce wanted to identify ways of using mobile technology to reduce costly downtime of products as part of its product lifecycle management.
“This is not just about creating products, it’s about facilitating a cultural change, a different way of thinking that links people, place and technology,” continues Reid. “Complex problems are best solved collaboratively.”
Introducing engineers to what is possible with mobile technology, opens-up a completely new way of problem solving that can deliver practical solutions quicker and more economically than conventional methods.
The workshops enable people to think openly, creatively and practically about how to change, or positively disrupt, aspects of their business. They are designed to uncover real-world insights and valuable surprises in ways that can lead to practical application.
The innovation workshops have been proven as a practical catalyst for change. Rolls-Royce was keen to understand how new digital media visualisation methods could benefit their defence customer services in their business transformation initiatives, and, through working in partnership with Rolls-Royce, Calvium has developed a clear understanding and vision of how mobile technology can transform the aerospace industry.
“With a trusted partnership, we can take an early concept into full production quicker and I’m confident this approach will work for other large enterprises in the aerospace sector.”
Each of Calvium’s workshops are designed specifically for each client, attuned to their particular needs and typically last between two and four hours.
Ingredients for success
If a company has an active area for development and is serious about taking it further, having a client champion and a decision maker in the room is critical.
“The biggest blocker to change is not having the authority or the know-how to get buy-in from people. That’s always a strong starting point.”
The insights that are gathered in the workshop, the thinking and the impact of the team being together is a valuable end in itself, regardless of whether there is an easy short-term win or a longer-term recommendation of what areas are to be developed further.
According to Dr Jo Morrison, director of digital innovation and research at Calvium, the following points are as true for fostering a sound, collaborative relationship between Calvium and Rolls-Royce, as they are for virtually any other partnership seeking to innovate (with or without digital technology): take time to build up positive relationships and nurture them; have open and honest discussions to foster a sense of respect and trust; be permanently curious and receptive to each other’s ideas; engender a sharing culture and be open to shifting individual and collective viewpoints; develop shared project goals and understand the aspirations of each team member; bring a ‘critical friend’ into the mix, to challenge the thinking and ideas of the team.
“By working on these points from the outset and developing a trusting partnership that ‘gets’ each other as well as each organisation's processes and procedures, a foundation for innovation is laid,” says Morrison. “From this point teams can work together on increasingly complex and larger scale projects that are designed to enhance performance at every level.”
An innovation workshop is an excellent framework to identify areas where a bespoke solution is worth developing, without locking onto a solution straight away.
“A factory manager may want all of their senior staff to attend a workshop and only think about a specific function or area,” notes Reid. “That’s a perfectly valid approach. On a larger scale, a company might want to bring in all their managers together and do a cross-functional kind of workshop.”
Calvium’s aerospace innovation workshops are specifically designed to help expand a company’s thinking and to create practical solutions that can enhance or radically transform its operations.
With the imminent roll-out of 5G services, companies have a golden opportunity to gain a competitive advantage to transform the way they use digital technologies throughout the manufacturing process, to create smarter connected services for employees and customers.
5G offers more than just speed. It will provide massively increased capacity with super low latency. Ideal characteristics for targeted, real-time data that can revolutionise services.
Anne Sheehan, business director at Vodafone UK says: "We can fit vastly more traffic onto the network and there’s endless scope to connect things – people, sensors, machines – in new and creative ways."
Calvium’s Reid concludes: “We want to take our learning with Rolls-Royce and apply it to the rest of the aerospace industry. I think we can really make a difference to improving all aspects of aerospace and the supply chain by bringing the capability of rapid mobile development to make a step-change to the operations of, not just MRO, but also the nuts and bolts of aircraft manufacture.”