Aero/Auto Conference – Meeting the Ramp up Required

Thursday, May 11, 2017
The inaugural SpeedNews Aero/Auto Conference held in Dearborn, MI on May 4th, brought together Automotive and Aerospace leaders to highlight some of the key challenges affecting both industries as well as lessons learned to be shared between the two communities of practice. Pcubed was a proud sponsor of this first in its kind conference. With a very packed agenda covering engineering, supply chain and the war for talent, we share some of the key insights and perspectives from the event.


SpeedNews, in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, brought together an impressive set of speakers and panelists to share their views on the current situation, key issues they each face, enabling technologies and the resulting outlook for each industry.

Topics and dialogue throughout the day evolved around innovation and design including vehicle light weighting, electrification and the use of breakthrough technologies such as additive manufacturing, to meet both regulatory and customer demands whilst reducing time to market.

A Silicon Valley based panel closed the day, sharing how both industries could be successful in transforming their organizations for future success, and how in doing so, they could learn from the Valley where constant innovation is embedded in the business ecosystem leading to the continued disruption of established players; no matter the industry.

Exciting times, Opportunities and Challenges ahead!

Nanda Kumar, President of Eaton Aerospace Group, kicked off the conference showcasing the extraordinary and exciting period ahead for both industries.  For the Aerospace industry, with a commercial aircraft backlog still at its peak at 9 years, and a 4 to 5% passenger growth rate, 60% of that in Asia, Nanda pointed out that the major industry players will need to remain focused on 4 key areas to meet the ramp up in demand.

First, a ‘cost out’ mind set is taking hold in Aerospace with the major OEM’s committed to improving profitability.  Tier 1 and 2 Aero suppliers will need to innovate their service models, establishing very strong end-user engagement in order to meet the needs and expectations of their direct customers.

Second, on time delivery and quality expectations are reaching Auto standards.  The usual metrics for PPM are now moving to the real six sigma – parts per billion. The industry is driving towards zero defect which will require a preventative mindset to achieve along with introduction of new processes borrowed from the Auto industry like PPAP.

Factories of the future like the Airbus helicopter and Safran helicopter engine plants in France, showcase how one can use IIoT and Big Data to drive internal optimization improvements.  Nanda closed with his fourth point, that in order to keep up with the pace of change, major players will need to take the innovation of their products to the OEMs midstream.

Kevin Michaels, Managing Director of Aerodynamic Advisory, echoed some of those themes in his perspective on how both industries could collaborate to meet the increasing demands. Auto can help Aero in areas of productivity, supply chain, and value engineering, while Aero can help Auto in areas of light-weighting, robust software and unmanned systems. He also highlighted that both industries will need to address the challenges introduced by additive manufacturing, more electric systems, and passenger infotainment, and in doing so will be confronted with the continued disruption from Silicon Valley and the War for Talent.

So what will it take to succeed?

With major opportunities existing for both Aerospace and Automotive manufacturers, the audience was in full agreement that future success will ultimately depend on a company’s ability to introduce new technology faster (midstream of their multi-year production) AND aligned to customer expectation.  During the panel discussion on vehicle light weighting, Dr. Jay Baron, Chairman, President & CEO at the Center for Automotive Research, stated that in the race to meet the 2025 Emissions target we are pushing the business case of light weighting past the willingness of the customer.  He continued that the average weight in the car has not decreased in the last 20 years.  With each reduction in weight, additional content to meet the needs of the customer has been added back in.

Instead the panel suggested looking at how Silicon Valley would address the problem by first outlining what you want to achieve.  Taking an autonomous vehicle as an example, you will need to identify what will the futuristic “driver” will be doing and therefore what content and/or structure should be in place.  The key to addressing the design problem is based on understanding the changing user experience.

The day’s agenda wrapped up with a focus on both Additive Manufacturing and Silicon Valley as disrupters.  When asked the question on the level of readiness to take on the new challenges introduced by technology, the frank answer was “We are not”. 

At Pcubed, we have over 20 years’ experience within the Aero and Auto industries, specializing in the mobilization and delivery of rapid change and business transformation. We understand that successful strategy execution starts with establishing a clear directive. 

Whether ready or not, first you IDENTIFY your desired destination and mobilize your workforce against that strategy with bold ambition. Dr. Laurence Vigeant-Langlois, Executive Market Leader at GE Additive, highlighted in her panel how GE acquired two companies when launching Additive and then tied their new strategy to a concrete directive – achieving $5B in cost out in 5 years.  They also challenged their internal organization with DEFINING the blueprint of innovative ideas on what it would take to get there.

The last step in Pcubed’s Business Transformation model focuses on what is required to DELIVER (i.e. the need to build and embed – both internal and external organizational capability).  Jeffrey W. Nichols, Executive Director American Axle & Manufacturing, illustrated how AAM embeds additive manufacturing by putting printers at each engineer’s desk to challenge their creativity.

The final point of the day was that a clear directive was not all it would take to go head to head with Silicon Valley in the fight for market share.  The sense of urgency pervasive in Auto, just does not exist in Aerospace.  A step change in culture will be required to match the level of response inherent in Silicon Valley tech companies.  As one panelist put it, it’s like sprinting a marathon.  The inaugural Aero/Auto conference was a great first step in both industries continued collaboration in order to meet the ramp up required.

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