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August 25, 2017
Why Industry X.0 is an even more powerful force in A&D than in other sectors of manufacturing
By: Nicholas Wright

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, Accenture and Airbus were awarded a prestigious accolade: the GSMA’s Best Mobile Solution for Enterprise Award. They won it for an innovative wearable technology initiative, in which they’re using “smart glasses” to improve the manufacturing process and accelerate time-to-market for the A330 aircraft.

The project is a great example of Industry X.0—the global move now under way to transform the capability, productivity and quality of manufacturing through digitisation and harnessing the internet of things (IoT). The Airbus smart glasses initiative is delivering against all these goals, enabling the company’s operators to mark seat placements six times faster than before, and reducing errors on the A330 Final Assembly Line to zero.

A radical rethink

If you haven’t come across Industry X.0 before, then here’s a thumbnail sketch. In simple terms, Industry X.0 is an advanced, digitally-enabled approach to innovation, planning and investment for manufacturing and industrial companies. It involves radically rethinking operational processes and value chains, so as to enable both the product and the way it’s produced to become smart, connected, living and constantly learning.

At the heart of Industry X.0 are highly intelligent interconnected systems that create a fully digital value chain. Forward-thinking manufacturers are embracing it today, positioning themselves to take productivity to new levels and be future disrupters, rather than disrupted. And Accenture is helping many leading companies—Airbus included—to manage their pivot to the “New” in the form of Industry X.0.

Not just for mass-manufacturing like automotive

When people first hear about Industry X.0, most grasp its potential at once. But they often assume it’s more relevant to high-volume, relatively low-margin manufacturing industries like automotive, as opposed to a higher-value, lower-volume sector like aerospace & defence (A&D). 

However, the converse is also true. The sheer volumes produced by the car manufacturing industry meant that automation came naturally. In contrast, A&D manufacturing is still dominated by more manual processes—and the high investment that would be needed to automate these fully means A&D will probably never catch up with automotive in this respect. However, these factors actually make Industry X.0 a more powerful force in A&D, because the potential benefits are so much greater.

Making the leap from manual to data-enabled

Why? By way of evidence, take the smart glasses application we mentioned earlier. Traditionally, few manufacturing processes could be more manual than spacing out and fixing in place the seats on an aircraft: For decades, it’s involved using a drawing of the layout and a range of measuring devices to put the right seats on the right rails in the right places.

But give people smart glasses, and the entire process is transformed. By digitising the drawing and measurements, and linking these into the wearable devices, the whole task is made far quicker and errors become virtually impossible to make. And the people doing the installation need less training, because the glasses teach them on the job—while constantly recording more data to drive continuous improvement in the future.

The effect is faster speed to market and better quality. And in an industry where the current global backlog of unfulfilled orders is estimated at well over 10,000, and where quality standards are ever more demanding, these outcomes are just what companies need most.

The message is clear. To capitalise on Industry X.0, you don’t need a factory full of robots and thousands of machines churning out data. You just need manufacturing processes that can be made faster, easier and better. And that’s what A&D has in droves.

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