Getting to grips with smarter software

Aerospace engineers now have access to data they have never had previously
Aerospace engineers now have access to data they have never had previously

We are increasingly utilising the power of software to manage and integrate all facets of our businesses. Solid Solutions’ Business Transformation Team discusses how the latest production control software systems can offer businesses huge benefits. Mike Richardson reports.

There’s little doubt that the aerospace manufacturing industry has embraced the data-driven age. So many elements of our businesses are reliant on computing and software when it comes to designing and manufacturing components and production control.

The origins of modern-day CAD/CAM, MRP/MRP II and ERP software can be traced back to the 1960s, and with the continual development of the PC, these systems have become not just the domain of large OEMs and Primes, but most SMEs in the supply chain.

Solid Solutions is a leading reseller of these kinds of systems and further advanced forms of integrated manufacturing software. Founded in 1998, originally as a SolidWorks training and support provider, the Solid Solutions Group now has over 20 offices across the UK and Ireland, offering expert professional design solutions and consultancy services to thousands of customers.

A plan in the making

One of the latest trends driving aerospace customer requirement for software solutions centres around Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP), which is being deployed within the Tier One suppliers and their sub tier suppliers. This is mainly due to adoption of the AS9145 (Requirements for Advanced Product Quality Planning and Production Part Approval Process) specification, so software systems which can assist with good APQP practices are being evaluated, chosen and deployed.

Meanwhile, in forcing people to work remotely, Covid has introduced people to technologies they possibly never knew existed for remote working. This has provoked discussions about other areas of the business that either would or could benefit from technology.

Many companies are still in their infancy of leveraging the benefit of technology ‘tools’
Many companies are still in their infancy of leveraging the benefit of technology ‘tools’

Some businesses downsized aggressively following the downturn resulting from the Boeing 737 MAX and Covid. Rather than recruiting again as things improve, there has been a definite openness/receptiveness for automating what were traditionally ‘cottage industry’ jobs. This has led to the adoption of business intelligence, automation and analytical solutions which are delivering significant value to the business without having to recruit.

According to the Business Transformation Team at Solid Solutions, the ready availability of tools to aggregate multiple sources together and knit them into a story means that manufacturing engineers now have access to data they have never had previously – at least easily anyway. For example, searching by part number what are the quality issues, the suppliers involved, the machine tools involved, plant layouts, machine selection and machine capacity.

And in terms of the levels of training and support Solid Solutions provides, one factor is the major obstacle in helping customers overcome their ‘comfort blanket’ attachment to legacy systems. Indeed, there’s a lot of emotional investment in legacy systems. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, people are becoming more understanding that there may be a ‘better way’. Because of the intense pressure and expectation within the industry, anything that will deliver time savings and/or free up someone’s capacity will be given appropriate consideration.

Many companies are still in their infancy of leveraging the benefit from their technology ‘tools’. IT, systems and processes are still viewed by many people as a cost rather than an investment. The tide is turning on this – especially in the last 12 months.

Integrate to innovate

I’m interested to know how the company sees the latest software systems integrating with Industry 4.0 and things like the Smart Factory, automation, robotics, adaptive machining and additive manufacturing and AI.

Solid Solutions’ Team says that historically, data has been fed into systems out of necessity, such as audits and compliance. Excel has been king for visualising this data, and decades-long cottage industries have evolved from ‘chartsmanship’ and the ability to deliver a message via PowerPoint presentations. This has rightfully, been viewed as a cost. A cultural and technological evolution is underway to automate the creation of meaningful reports and interactive visuals that let you answer the question you have using the most topical data available. This is an investment.

Solid Solutions says it is dedicated to supporting excellence
Solid Solutions says it is dedicated to supporting excellence

The technical solutions to empower businesses to automate, visualise and report on current data, predict future probable problems and provide ‘what if’ analysis is here today on a low code/no code basis. This technology is becoming integrated into the businesses Solid Solutions deals with.

Solutions are now deployed that enable you to identify and allocate the (finite amount of) resource you have within a business to the best improvement opportunities in the business. We are only a couple of years away from being able to visualise, manage, monitor, and control issues within the supply chain.  The technology is available – we just need to help customers join the digital dots to help their businesses benefit.

What truly differentiates Solid Solutions from the competition is the breadth of its offering. With the continued expansion of the Solid Solutions Group, the company is able to offer a host of software and solutions to suit businesses, no matter what stage they’re at. This also means that as a business grows, Solid Solutions can provide a holistic, unbiased view when advising the right solutions for your business as it evolves.

Solid Solutions has built many successful and longstanding relationships over the years from this approach and is viewed as a trusted advisor in the marketplace. Dedicated to ‘supporting excellence’ Solid Solutions is here to ensure your business succeeds by acting as a long-term trusted advisor.

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