Smart manufacturing is becoming the model of modern manufacturing. It includes most of the U.S. Department of Defense modernization priorities (Section 8, Fiscal Year 2020 Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress).
Smart manufacturing is considered a “must-have” for future manufacturing competitiveness. Experts generally agree that successful smart manufacturing enterprises will leverage the expanded use of automation and create a convergence of interconnected information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) into an increasingly digital workflow.
This integration with upstream and downstream stakeholders at every level of the supply chain with detailed product and process history (digital twin) ensures the quality, security and integrity of manufactured components.
Though aerospace manufacturers were early leaders in using digital manufacturing, they lag behind many industries in adopting the cyber-physical interface throughout the manufacturing workflow.
Some of this is attributable to cultural and practical resistance within the industry. But much of it can be traced to disconnects between the workforce skills and general technology familiarity needed to incorporate smart manufacturing methods into the production supply chain.
Smart Manufacturing Value Proposition
The smart manufacturing value proposition for defense aerospace production is the same as for all industries. If properly implemented, it offers greater manufacturing flexibility with reduced costs and better quality.
Smart manufacturing tools and their associated cost savings will inevitably become contract requirements to serve the government customer. Early adoption of these technologies positions manufacturers with potential competitive advantages in the near term. These tools will also help contractors meet customer needs by supporting product lifecycle data development with design, production, inspection, fielding, repair and disposition.
Smart manufacturing aspires to combine manufacturing, data and management into an integrated, agile and highly efficient system.
Five key attributes characterize smart manufacturing systems: connected, optimized, transparent, proactive and agile. These attributes are achieved by designing and implementing flexible manufacturing systems where equipment, personnel and data are coordinated in a digital framework.
In addition to affecting choices of manufacturing processes, this involves expanded use of automation and sensing, bridging data between IT and OT systems. It also includes applying advanced analytics, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to support better decision-making.