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Written by Kaushal Jadia
on 03 Aug 2020

The Integrated Product Development Process unlocks value across various stages of a product development life cycle

 

The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is highly sensitive to changes in technology within the ecosystem. However, increased competition in the commercial aviation space and shrinking defense budgets have forced OEMs and suppliers to check their spending. So, to keep pace with advances in technology and innovative applications, industry players are looking at innovative ways that enable them to upgrade and retrofit existing systems. One way they are doing this is to partner with external vendors to revisit the product development process related to avionics engineering.

 

Why are OEMs and suppliers wary of outsourcing product development?

Avionics systems play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of an aircraft (passenger or cargo) while flying. In addition to being robust in terms of build quality, these components need to be extremely reliable and capable of operating in the most challenging of conditions. For OEMs, their suppliers, and other intermediaries who undertake system or platform upgrades, every component is essential, and even the smallest improvement counts. Therefore, when companies decide to procure parts from external vendors, they are faced with the following issues:

  • Program risk: While having multiple vendors and sub-vendors enables customers to choose from among the best, integrating disparate systems and subsystems and assembling components from multiple vendors also increases the inherent program risk. The probability of mismatch, incompatibility, and failure rises exponentially as the number of external variables or vendors goes up.
  • Product delivery: A conversion project involves hundreds and thousands of components; a single delay or misalignment in the delivery schedule can have a cascading effect on the entire project. Additionally, the certification process for such components follows the highest standards, so the final components need to meet exact specifications.
  • Project cost: As the complexity of projects increases, so does the need for redesigning subsystems and replacing parts within the component. In such a situation, suppliers must be financially prudent at every step of the development life cycle because every reduction in cost and performance improvement translates to financial returns.

Addressing Ecosystem Challenges with the Integrated Product Development Process

Cyient can design, develop, certify, qualify, and undertake series production of electronics systems. At Cyient, we have adopted an integrated approach to product development, covering the complete life cycle. We have created an in-house process called the Integrated Product Development Process (IPDP), which aims at integrating various functions and operations to provide the customer with a singular experience and a superior product at the end of the process.

  • Anticipate change in plans: Since OEMs work with multiple partners, particularly on large projects, upstream bottlenecks in sequential tasks can cause delays. Besides this, changes in specifications or technology could require replacing components midway through the process. So, if a component has dependencies either for testing, qualification, or certification, it is advisable to anticipate the change in plans and to factor it in to reduce the eventual impact.
  • Look for opportunities to reduce cost: Redesigning specific components from scratch allow engineers to analyze and identify opportunities to reduce cost by replacing components or changing the material used in it. For example, in one of our projects, we were able to clock substantial savings by replacing the power supply module. Besides material value, the new component also enhanced product performance, which led to reduced operational costs.
  • Focus on documentation: As expected, the norms for certification in the aviation sector are highly stringent and exact. This involves extensive documentation that includes testing reports, furnishing artifacts, and submitting proofs. For instance, a single component that goes into a commercial plane may have close to 150 separate documents and reports. So, in addition to the different stages of physical inspection audit, any non-conformity in documentation could jeopardize the project.

Application of IPDP in the A&D Industry

The IPDP methodology can be applied to any avionics system that needs to be designed from scratch or requires re-engineering. This includes technical upgrades as well as those mandated by regulators. We expect an uptick in the adoption of the IPDP model in the following areas within the A&D industry:

  • Power systems: Full system design and manufacturing solutions for power conversion, distribution, and inversion units as well as battery management systems
  • Actuation control electronics: Embedded software and electronic hardware designing for actuation systems such as the cargo door control unit
  • Communications systems: Development of software-defined radios, microwave, and radio frequency systems as well as components such as antennas and amplifiers
  • Display systems: Full product development for smart systems that aggregate data and display it to the user, such as in cockpits or similar environments.

Conclusion

In the uncertain and hyper-competitive A&D market of today, where OEMs and suppliers continuously jostle to retain their turf, every opportunity to enhance performance or reduce cost can be a crucial differentiator. From new product design to obsolescence redesign, and manufacturing to certification, the applications of an Integrated Product Development Process are limitless. In addition to creating an environment of collaboration between manufacturers and vendors, this model also allows decision-makers to control and fine-tune the process, which enables players to unlock value at every stage.


1. 2019 global aerospace and defense industry outlook

2. Aerospace and Defense Trends 2018-19

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