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On February 7th, 2019, Airbus and Dassault Systèmes announced a five-year memorandum of agreement (MOA) to overhaul the engineering and manufacture of Airbus aircraft – both civilian and military.
The aerospace manufacturing industry remains at the forefront of technological innovation, but companies this size are always slow to adopt new processes. Digital transformation has been a buzzword in big businesses for at least a decade, and this MOA signals the start of Airbus’.
But what does digital transformation look like to Airbus?
And why partner specifically with Dassault Systèmes to achieve it?
Airbus and Boeing have long held a near-duopoly over the aerospace industry, but Chinese competition looms. The strategic partnership with Dassault Systèmes is a bid to make Airbus faster, leaner, more efficient. A PLM system is the clearest path to that goal.
The Dassault Systèmes partnership will extend to every single aspect of Airbus’ business. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform will fulfil 310 different roles, from 3D component design to social business analysis in a single unified platform. Guillaume Faury, president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft referred to the project in a statement as “building a new model for the European aerospace industry.”
It’s a perfect example of the power of PLM. Systems like 3DEXPERIENCE can be transformative for SMEs, but their effect is amplified ten-fold in supply chains as complex and globe-spanning as those found in the aerospace industry.
To see why Airbus have made such a deep commitment with Dassault Systèmes, let’s examine the ways in which PLM can transform an aerospace manufacturer.
An Airbus 350 comprises some four million parts, originating from 30 different countries, before finally converging in Toulouse, France for final assembly. 500,000 people are involved in building Boeing’s aircraft.
Designing, constructing and delivering aeroplanes requires some of the most expansive, complicated networks of skills, suppliers and materials on the planet. Managing those networks is an enormous undertaking.
A PLM system like Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE connects every single stage of that process – and every single participant – into one virtual space. It provides a single source of truth, ensuring everybody has the same information, and facilitates collaboration across the entire supply chain.
It also enables program managers to gain a bird’s eye view of the whole operation from a single interface so that they can make adjustments on-the-fly.
The aerospace industry is at the bleeding edge of technological innovation, especially in the context of defence. Getting new designs – incorporating the latest developments – into production quickly is of paramount importance. Indeed, one of Airbus’ stated aims for the Dassault Systèmes partnership is a “reduction in production development lead time.”
Fundamental to achieving this is the use of virtualisation tools, including Computer Aided Design (CAD), Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM). Following a computerised 3D design, the entire engineering and manufacturing process can be virtually prototyped.
CAE can be used to assess how precisely the aircraft nose accords to aerodynamic principles. Then CAM can stress-test the part, identifying any potential manufacturing issues, before it gets anywhere near the factory.
The result is not only better-quality parts, but a massively reduced likelihood of manufacturing faults; an accompanying reduction in delays due to error or recall; and an overall decrease in wastage costs.
In the wake of high-profile crashes like the recent Ethiopian Airlines tragedy, safety has never been more important to the aerospace manufacturers, which is rightly subject to stringent regulation.
PLM systems enable aviation companies to integrate compliance into the design and build processes. Not only is the ability to perform checks incorporated into the system, but those checks can be mandated within the system, ensuring with absolute certainty that all requisite tests are performed.
The same CAE and CAM tools that help tighten manufacture can be also used to conduct virtual safety benchmarking, running lifelike simulations to evaluate both the entire plane and its individual components.
PLM systems like the Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE platform can have a transformative effect on any business, but none more so than for an aerospace manufacturer.
As technology advances, so too does the complexity of the aeroplane itself, not to mention the network of suppliers and sub-suppliers required to produce such complicated machinery.
Faced with such an undertaking – as well as increasing global competition – it’s easy to see why Airbus is keen to adopt the precision tools and streamlined management capabilities of Dassault Systèmes’ PLM platform.
At TECHNIA, we are proud to be a global platinum Dassault Systèmes partner.
Learn how a TECHNIA 3DEXPERIENCE implementation can transform companies at all levels of the aerospace industry.