Integrate, simplify, automate – it’s a good mantra for Dassault Systèmes to adopt. Mike Richardson hears how the company’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions are helping its customers capture all the goodness over the entire lifetime of an aircraft programme.
The mind boggles when it comes to overseeing the entire lifecycle of an aircraft programme. Design, review, manufacture, review and iterate ad infinitum – one can end up feeling like a mouse in a maze! How can we better look at things collaboratively, holistically across design and manufacturing simultaneously as opposed to a design down-streaming into manufacturing and production and then finding issue, only to have to go back upstream again? It needs a lot more than a trail of breadcrumbs – it’s time for businesses to harness the opportunities available in the rich tapestry of the ‘digital thread’.
Enabling aerospace companies to drive innovation and efficiency across the product development lifecycle of their products, Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform is increasingly being used to develop a digital thread to enable continuity and collaboration across a business, and includes requirements definition, design, analysis, simulation, manufacturing, qualification and supporting the development of new manufacturing technologies and techniques.
The 3DEXPERIENCE platform also provides intuitive 3D applications for product design, analysis, simulation, manufacturing and data management in a virtual environment – in essence, a single collaborative platform that defines, shares, reviews, integrates, validates, executes and reports - and offers the opportunity to maximise business improvement through digital continuity from concept to delivery.
With weight, performance and cost continuing to dominate the competitiveness of the design, development and manufacture of today’s sophisticated and complex aerostructures for the latest generation of aircraft, I’m interested to know how the 3DEXPERIENCE platform really helps the key protagonists of the aerospace sector change their systems of work for the better, reduce the top and bottom lines, improve processes, mitigate risk, and create a workforce that really hums.
Capture that knowledge
How are you helping customers to capture knowledge and know-how and how to share it? How are you challenging the customers’ perceptions to make these changes when they’ve been doing things a certain way for the last few decades?
“Increasingly more people are talking up Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution and the wave of change, but what does it actually mean,” begins Dassault Systèmes’ managing director for EuroNorth, John Kitchingman. “A lot of data is being digitised in a variety of systems, but what is being done with that information and can it be used throughout the entire product lifecycle?”
“There’s an opportunity for far greater commonality and reuse, and if you can reuse as part of your development initiative, some of the knowledge and assets from what you have done in the past, you’re going to do things faster and therefore cheaper, and perhaps improving quality along the way. This is what we at Dassault Systèmes believe in terms of this present Industry Renaissance period that moves us on, because we’re not just looking at the ability to automate or fully digitise information - we’re looking at the process and the method by which we do it.”
The 3DEXPERIENCE platform looks to enable virtual validation of the entire manufacturing process. Is Kitchingman also seeing positive signs that it mitigates issues where experienced people leave or retire from an organisation, but the people left behind find it difficult to fill the void left?
“We’re challenging the norm and offering new disruptive business approaches in order to get people to think differently. There is also a cultural aspect to this in terms of winning hearts and minds – you can’t just demand that people use said technology – you have to take them on the journey culturally. People talk about the workforces and jobs of the future, etc., but over the next 5-10 years, there are many aerospace companies that are concerned by the skills and the knowledge that are walking out of the door. It’s therefore even more important now to be able to capture that knowledge in what we would call ‘assets’ so that they are reusable. We talk a lot about knowledge and know-how and the ability of the platform to capture that – not just for reuse for future product development but for developing as a core asset or intellectual property within said client’s business. Many clients are concerned about this and we’re enabling them to address this concern by doing exactly that – capturing this knowledge so that it can be reused and it can be developed over time. It can become new processes, new methods to enable them for their future programmes of work.”
Jobs for the bots?
It could be argued that increasing manufacturing efficiencies today is all about doing more with less people. The obvious societal danger here is that people need to work, but with no jobs, towns and cities have their very hearts and souls ripped out of them. I’m interested to know how Kitchingman would counter the argument that automation is taking over?
“In a positive evolution scenario, there may be jobs which are automated, but actually, there are new jobs created as well around harvesting this knowledge and around the creation of these assets and their reuse across the business. Enabling people to access in a structured and disciplined fashion so that they can reuse, adds benefit, but more importantly it can create new roles and career trajectories for people that wasn’t there before by leveraging this technology.
“The role of a design, manufacturing and mechanical engineer will still be focused on a certain degree of the ‘nuts and bolts’. We’re trying to add new roles for people. Our technology is built on specific roles and industry processes so that those two things evolve together over time, which is really important. We see ourselves as defining new roles that won’t necessarily render existing ones redundant – it just evolves, providing new and exciting things for that individual to do, initially as part of an apprenticeship perhaps.”
Everything revolves around the value of the data that an aircraft generates and how this data can be channelled into innovative services. With completely new business models springing up as a result of disruptive technologies like additive manufacturing, is the 3DEXPERIENCE platform a means of managing and keeping it all in check?
“We have launched two capabilities within the 3DEXPERIENCE, the first point being POWER’BY. Clearly, our clients and industry have been using PLM, design, manufacturing and data management technologies for a very long time. Therefore, as they move forward with these applications, one of the biggest concerns is: ‘do I have to migrate all of my legacy data that sits in all of these legacy systems through to this business platform?’ This can be very time-consuming and costly. We’ve launched POWER’BY to enable our clients to access a legacy system so that we can bring it through - not as a migration tool - but as a gateway so they’re not having to spend time and money migrating all of the products data - some of which they won’t even need anymore.”
“The second point is a capability for our 3DEXPERIENCE Marketplace, which also sits within our platform. This is best described using one of our clients, Joby Aviation, a relatively new entrant into the civil aircraft design and manufacturing space. They wanted to access and create a new supply chain of contacts who could help them understand the additive manufacturing sector, because they didn’t have the time or resources to setup that whole supply chain and procurement function themselves. Marketplace offers an electronic trading environment whereby Joby Aviation can access many hundreds of companies through our platform to share information, reach out to different companies asking for their tenders against various parameters of time, cost and quality, and enable them to trade through the 3DEXPERIENCE platform showing the design and geometry information and also enabling them to effectively manage their supply chain, again, through the 3DEXPERIENCE platform as Marketplace. It’s a great example where it’s reduced time by automating a process. It’s given Joby Aviation access to many hundreds of companies that would have taken a long time to establish in terms of the supply chain, and start to trade interactively based on the core data in and through the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.”
Winning hearts and minds
Kitchingman believes this is a ringing endorsement for the way the 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables customers to reuse information - creating it just the once and not having to recreate it as it goes out to third parties. “It enables greater collaboration throughout the product’s lifecycle with tier suppliers and new suppliers who our customers perhaps haven’t traded with or considered to do so before.”
“The 3DEXPERIENCE platform gives our customers another dimension with which to engage with their customers,” he concludes. “Today’s companies are looking at ways with which they can provide their OEM clients with different capabilities and different information than previously, the design engineer all the way through to manufacturing, lightweighting, data, cost – all decisions that needed to be taken between the OEM and supplier to enable important cost reduction initiatives to occur. Developing capabilities around the 3DEXPERIENCE platform gives them a different conversation to have in terms of the winning of hearts and minds within their target customer base.”