Aerospace & Defense Digital Thread: 6 Factors Influencing the Aerospace & Defense Industry

Aerospace & Defense Digital Thread: 6 Factors Influencing the Aerospace & Defense Industry
Jonathan Fahey
The Aerospace and Defense industry is a complex ecosystem comprised of various stakeholders. Original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s), suppliers, vendors and contractors are collaborating with one anther on a global level. The collaboration and management of digital information between OEM’s and the supply chain is an integral part to the Aerospace and Defense workflow. However, this world wide exchange of digital information presents its own challenges.
Aerospace & Defense Digital Thread: 6 Factors Influencing the Aerospace & Defense Industry

1. A Globalized Workforce and Expansive Supply Chain

Aerospace and Defense companies operate around the world and rely on countless employees, vendors, and the supply chain to get a product to market. A snapshot of this massive ecosystem is seen below and highlights the complex workflow the industry faces while trying to get a product to market as quickly as possible.

Source: LNS Research

“Not only do companies need to deal with suppliers and customers across different geographies, they also need to deal with an entire ecosystem of data, created by the digital disruption in the industry” said, EY Global Advanced Manufacturing & Mobility Leader, Randall Miller.

The IT decisions made within companies and the industry have significant consequences. Aerospace & Defense is a economic driver for the global economy. Millions of jobs depend on the sector and with so much money at stake it is crucial that businesses can innovate faster even as compliance requirements become more challenging.

Aerospace and Defense Output For Defense Contractors and Supply Chain
Source: AIA

2. Legacy Apps and Fragmented Data

Most businesses today contain silos of data that sit on top of an outdated legacy architecture. This type of technology and environment hinder productivity and provide an extremely cumbersome end user experience. Often times organizations are utilizing dozens of apps which have been stitched together to try and meet their business requirements. It is not uncommon for organizations to have 15+ apps that employees are switching between.

Source: LNS Research

Not only is this multi-application strategy inefficient, it allows for countless security vulnerabilities during the collaborative process, both internally, and externally with the supply chain. As Drew Hendricks from Inc. Magazine states in his article, companies are facing significant challenges due to a fragmented technology experience. This fragmented experience places a burden on the IT department and is extremely costly for companies because oftentimes they are paying a fee for each application that does an individual task.

Source: LNS Research

As work is done remotely, and onsite, it’s also important for a company to maintain a consistent experience in both environments. Whether you are trying to attract talent that prefers to work remote, or outside influences don’t allow for a traditional office environment, business continuity is essential.

3. New Tools, New Content…Old Architecture

The days of Aerospace and Defense companies strictly working with internal Office documents are over. Businesses today may be recording thousands of hours of prototype testing, recording internal components during maintenance, or collaborating on marketing content with an ad agency. While this is currently happening, companies like Rolls Royce are looking to the future and utilizing video in ways that seem unimaginable.

The most crucial content the Aerospace and Defense community must depend on is: 3D models. The research and development (R&D) process is almost exclusively done in 3D PLM software, creating countless models during the design and prototyping phase. As Aerospace and Defense companies  continue to collaborate with the supply chain, a Model-Based Definition (MBD) standard is becoming commonplace, as a way to reduce errors when exchanging Product and Manufacturing Information (PMI) - as the industry shifts towards distributed manufacturing.

Advanced manufacturing methods are fueling the amount of content being created. Imaging that is commonly  found in hospitals and medical facilities, is seeing significant adoption in manufacturing environments. X-Ray imaging is being leveraged to validate parts created using additive manufacturing, as well as companies like Airbus utilizing X-Ray imaging during the quality assurance phase, after assembly.

When you think of design you often think of the visual aspect - however sound, or acoustics is also a part of the R&D workflow as well. The United States Air Force has one of the most advanced facilities in the Aerospace and Defense industry when it comes to acoustic testing.

These new types of content highlight the problem the industry is facing as it grows and tries to innovate faster. The current software and architecture utilized in the Aerospace and Defense workflow was not meant - and does not have the capability to handle these new forms of digital intellectual property (IP) and media at scale. This presents the ultimate question... How do large enterprises increase productivity and efficiency in this new digital economy?

4. IP is the New Currency

Development of IP is the foundation for an Aerospace and Defense company. As competition between manufacturers increases, the time to market to produce the latest and most advanced product is critical. Billions of dollars worth of IP is being created annually in collaboration with the supply chain. This priceless IP is what ultimately fuels the growth of a company.

Enterprise Productivity Software
Source: Samuel King Jr.

R&D plays a huge role in an Aerospace and Defense company’s value and growth, as well as Aerospace and Defense industry growth as a whole. From 2019 to 2020 the United States Department of Defense R&D budget grew 29.1% to a total of $92.3 billion. In addition, NASA saw its R&D budget increase by 13.3% to $13.6 billion in 2019. In the private sector, the R&D investments are paying off for contractors as they generate significant revenue from sales.

Source: Statista

5. Compliance in a Globalized, Remote Workforce

When selecting a technology solution for the Aerospace and Defense industry companies are not looking at functionality in a vacuum. Not only does a business need software that meets or exceeds the functional requirements, it also must be compliant. Aerospace and Defense is an extremely regulated industry and is faced with a long list of requirements. The most recent compliance requirement called the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) will be required as part of the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) for DoD contractors. Historically companies have self certified or brought in a 3rd part company to evaluate their readiness. With the latest CMMC requirements prime contractors and the companies doing business with them must be certified from level 1-3 of the CMMC requirements based on the DoD contract.


Level 2 CMMC certification will be done by a C3PAO and Level 1 will be certified by government assessors. CMMC does not eliminate International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) requirements and businesses where both requirements apply will need to address them separately. Organizations that are following frameworks like NIST 800-171, are on the right path to prepare for CMMC certification but will surely need to fill in any gaps in coverage.

Not only do aerospace and defense companies have to worry about industry requirements they also need to plan for geographic compliance requirements depending on what countries they are operating in. For example, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is not just a concern for consumer-focused businesses it is a requirement for multi-national B2B companies as well that are handling employee data.

6. Industry 4.0 - The Machines and Software Are Here to Help

Industry 4.0 is here. As digital content size continues to increase, and data sets become larger, the businesses generating these massive portfolios of IP need new ways to work with the data  in order to impact the company in a valuable way.

Industry 4.0 Timeline
Source: Viridis Enery

In addition, as more machines become internet enabled (such as CNC and additive printers) the barrier to entry decreases and utilization of these machines increases. This allows an Aerospace and Defense company to collaborate globally and integrate faster in a true distributed manufacturing environment. Additive manufacturing which has historically been used in the R&D process and prototyping, is now starting to gain traction in production. Companies in the private sector, like Boom Supersonic and GE, as well as government branches like the Air Force, and the Army are helping fuel greater adoption of additive manufacturing technologies.

About Us

CR8 is an industry cloud platform, designed to fuel innovation for global businesses and their supply chain by increasing productivity and exceeding compliance requirements.

Companies require multiple business units to deliver a product or service and function every day. These business units often operate within a silo due to legacy software, desktop programs, and countless applications that do an individual task and do not meet today's evolving business requirements.

CR8 eliminates fragmented enterprises by bringing a brand’s workforce together within a single technology platform - combining communication, collaboration, and compliance in a unified solution. CR8 allows brands to increase productivity, get to market faster, and remain compliant in order to thrive in this new digital economy.

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