In this two-part blog series, we recap the highlights of one of the A&D industry's flagship events and revisit the Cyient capabilities and solutions that were on display at the show.
The Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) 2018, a flagship event for the aerospace and defense industry, provides a platform for A&D professionals to address challenges, discuss solutions, and exhibit their capabilities. This year's edition of the FIA was a success on many fronts. Overall attendance was up 10%, the airshow recorded more than 1,400 commercial aircraft orders valued at $154 billion, and there were an additional 1,432 deals for engines worth $22 billion.
While there were not a lot of major innovations announced at the airshow this year, there were, as always, key themes that emerged:
- All things digital: A major theme this year was the digital revolution, especially in additive manufacturing and connected factories. While digital was on full display, there was an appreciable lack of empirical successes to flaunt. Though the last few years had brought a promise that a digital revolution will transform the A&D manufacturing value chain, there is still more bylines than use cases. While it is agreed that the digital revolution is coming, it will come on steady, and over time.
That said, today, A&D manufacturing companies are being driven to think increasingly "digital" and are starting to test, and in some cases adopt, digital solutions using advanced robotics, additive manufacturing, AR/VR, and AI. Despite this, successful and scaled adoption of these technologies in the A&D sector have not seen the growth of other, less risk-averse, markets. This is one of the reasons Cyient has undertaken a risk-sharing model with our clients, which allows them to go to market more quickly and with lower risks. In the coming decade, as these technologies become better understood and less risky, there will be greater use of the "digital thread," but we are still early days.
- Demand for skilled engineering workforce: Another key focus area was the demand for specialized engineering workforce. With the convergence of new digital technology and physical systems, a critical need for specialized engineering workforce was identified. Increasing staffing demand and intense competition from the higher paying, high-tech consumer industry has driven A&D companies to focus on acquiring qualified workforce proficient in a variety of technical disciplines.
- Next-gen tech and the reemergence of supersonic: One technology that burst on to the scene this year was flying taxis. Firms such as Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Boeing all showcased ideas around flying taxis, particularly for unmanned taxi services. While this still feels like a science fiction project, the fact that the biggest names in the industry are putting their limited R&D resources to work on this makes the idea a bit less "fiction-like" and more like an inevitability.
The re-emergence of the supersonic flight was also on full display at the show with Boom promising to have an aircraft in the skies by 2025. Not to be outdone, Lockheed Martin and Boeing too have designs in the works. With new designs that limit the sonic boom and an opportunity to revisit regulations, particularly in the US, the Earth's skies may once again see a commercial airline flying supersonically over 20 years after the last Concorde flight.
- The debate on Brexit: With the discussions between the UK and the EU dragging on with no firm decision on a "hard" or "soft" Brexit, industry in the UK seems particularly concerned with disruptions to the supply chain, and the UK's long-term position in that supply chain. Airbus sounded the first warning bell in June about its long-term position in the UK that Brexit-without a clear trading agreement or even with it-would have ramifications on its UK business. More broadly, the industry seemed concerned over the global divide on the "drawbridge up vs. drawbridge down" political divide and the implications of what that means for economic policy. The aspect that was most discussed was what the uncertainty means, and with the various options on the table how can a business plan for the outcome with minimal disturbance.
No clear answers were forthcoming, but there is a sense of fear of the unknown as the populist's debates play out in the public domain with little insight into the economic effects of these decisions. Markets don't like uncertainty, and the longer it drags on, the more of an impact we may see up and down the value chain.
To learn more about Cyient capabilities and solutions showcased at the event, read part two of the blog.