The aerospace and defense industry has been a trailblazer in the use of digital twins to drive innovation through product design. A recent Accenture survey of aerospace and defense organizations revealed that 97 percent were using or evaluating digital twin technologies as a core component of their product innovation process. To fuel additional growth, aerospace and defense organizations will need to build new business models based on differentiated and value-added services that leverage their products as platforms.
To this end, aerospace and defense organizations need to move beyond the digital twin to master the use of the digital thread. The digital thread enables the flow of information across the entire value chain from OEMs to suppliers, partners, and operators. The digital thread effectively enriches the digital twin and enables key insights that help aerospace and defense organizations develop new revenue sources across the product-services continuum.
However, realizing the digital thread is easier said than done. Sharing complex and unstructured data across the extended enterprise by bringing together multiple organizations to share information in a secure fashion— while maintaining design, build, and maintenance authority—is a complex proposition. To this point, Accenture’s survey of multiple aerospace and defense OEMs and major suppliers found two evolving models of data ownership emerging in the next three years to support the digital thread:
- Digital threads that are centralized and managed by the overall design entity
- Digital threads based on shared data ownership across the extended enterprise
In one such proof of concept, Accenture worked with a defense contractor to address the certification and authenticity of critical parts in its supply chain. Working together, we sought to create a blockchain solution that would provide an immutable and auditable digital thread proving hardware, software and documentation authenticity and compliance as components moved through the value chain.
Using CryptoSeal and FPGA fingerprinting technology, we gave material a unique identity that was recorded in a private blockchain. This combination of technologies permits the secure and transparent tracking of transactions between OEMs, suppliers, manufacturers and customers. Every time an item in the supply chain is exchanged, the transaction is permanently documented and easily recovered. This dramatically reduces delays, costs, and human error that affect the surety of transactions underpinning the current supply chain.
Getting started with blockchain in the digital thread
For aerospace and defense companies, establishing a digital thread and the use of blockchain within it, is not just a technology exercise. Rather, it must be a structured program that aligns business value, a pragmatic approach to technology, and the engagement of partners willing to collaborate on the digital thread.
A targeted approach, focused on use cases and business value, can help aerospace and defense companies address these questions and move toward securing the industry participation that is required to realize the promise of the digital thread.