December 14, 2022

How Virtual Builds Can Improve Manufacturing Engineering in Aerospace & Defense

Our research showed that 62% of respondents indicate that manufacturing engineering efficiency drives product success and profitability the most.
Avatar Wendy (Klotz) Mlynarek

The aerospace and defense industry is poised for a steady recovery. The rising demand for small- and medium-sized aircraft and increasing trends in commercial air travel and customer order activity[1] present opportunities for developing new technologies and solutions, creating new markets and business growth.

However, developing profitable products in today’s aerospace and defense market is more challenging than ever. Manufacturers must move quickly to out-innovate the competition and deliver more complex products with increasing variants, while keeping up with the rapidly changing pace of manufacturing, engineering, and design—without sacrificing product cost and quality.

Tech-Clarity and DELMIA surveyed 177 industry players and found that achieving product development success while meeting evolving demands relies on manufacturing engineering efficiency, driven by digitalization—which is key to innovation and resilience.

Here, we discuss how aerospace and defense manufacturers can improve manufacturing engineering to capitalize on growth opportunities by turning to digital technologies like virtual builds.

Recognizing the opportunity to transform manufacturing engineering in aerospace and defense

Virtual build in aerospace and defense

Efficiency is key, especially in an industry where time to market drives market share and products have short lifecycles. Our research showed that 62% of respondents indicate that manufacturing engineering efficiency drives product success and profitability the most.

Unlocking the coveted levels of efficiency and visibility requires aerospace and defense companies to transform the “virtual build” process in manufacturing engineering and close the gap between organizational silos that impede innovation. Top-performing organizations understand this. They have leveraged virtual builds by constructing products on a digital platform with real-life data inputs to overcome challenges that impact profitability, productivity, and efficiency.

A platform approach to transforming manufacturing engineering eliminates the need for manual processes and legacy systems, such as physical prototypes and spreadsheets, in favor of digitalized production planning. For instance, adopting new manufacturing validation techniques earlier, in parallel with product design, enables aerospace and defense original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to reduce cycle times and increase efficiency and quality.

Aerospace manufacturing engineers are hungry for upgraded solution capabilities to manufacture better and right the first time. Many companies are investing in virtual twin technologies, 3D modeling and simulation tools to make better predictions and decisions in a virtual environment without the time and cost of deploying physical prototypes. Virtual representations helpengineers spot issues earlier in the design stage. In addition, while virtual simulations help designers virtually experience the production process with a 360°-view, allowing them to improve planning and validation significantly.

Top performers have realized several benefits through validating manufacturing processes with 3D and virtual simulation, including:

  • 36% fewer prototypes
  • 37% reduction in time to market
  • 36% less ECOs (engineering change orders)

How aerospace and defense manufacturers can unlock operational efficiency with DELMIA

While adopting virtual simulation and 3D technologies brings a host of efficiency gains, aerospace and defense companies must ensure the right solution—one that is scalable, future proof and, most importantly, tailored to address their unique business needs.

DELMIA has a rich history of driving operational excellence in aerospace and defense manufacturing operations. With innovative, industry-tailored solutions, DELMIA helps facilitate the virtual build process, enabling manufacturers to holistically visualize and study new product designs and their associated assembly processes in a rich 3D virtual environment. Leveraging Dassault Systèmes’ Virtual Twin Experience, operations can be validated across a wide variety of manufacturing engineering processes—most notably in line balancing, assembly processes, and work instructions to:

  • Improve the efficiency and accuracy of the manufacturing plan
  • Achieve first-time right to accelerate New Product Introduction
  • Shorten the learning curve for production workers with visual process documentation

Powered by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, DELMIA unlocks end-to-end visibility and consolidates all relevant information, acting as a single source of truth to all stakeholders and enabling more efficient collaboration, faster decision-making, and better decision-making use of resources. Thanks to such solutions, top performers spend 17% less on non-value-added activities in manufacturing engineering, directly reducing development cycle times.

Physical prototypes will become a thing of the past as virtual builds take center stage. With all the relevant and accurate data available on one platform, manufacturing engineers can generate a more significant number of accurate, science-based simulations. This ensures issues are identified quickly and can be instantly digitally rectified before real-world execution. Research suggests this method results in fewer prototypes, faster product launches, and increased revenue and sales margins. Moreover, those who applied virtual validation were 33% less likely to uncover issues in the final production stage.

Interested in learning more about the value of virtual builds for your organization and how they can help improve manufacturing efficiency, quality, and profitability?

Download our report on Transforming Manufacturing Engineering in the Aerospace & Defense Industry

[1] Deloitte. “2022 aerospace and defense industry outlook: Focusing on digital innovation to thrive”

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