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DEFENCE MANUFACTURING Industry 4.0 and Defence Manufacturing

Apr 13, 2020

Industry 4.0 is a combination of latest technologies like digitisation, Big Data, analytics, IoT, Additive Manufacturing (AM), automation, simulation and Augmented Reality (AR). Spread across the diverse sectors of aerospace, defence, heavy engineering, automotive, energy & medical equipment, Axiscades, the author company, offers innovative, sustainable and safer products worldwide and delivers business value across the entire engineering lifecycle. The following article explores how all the technologies grouped under Industry 4.0 are an important aspect for both, design and manufacturing in the defence sector. Sharadhi Babu, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Axiscades

Industry 4.0 plays a huge role in expediting and delivering outcomes quicker. It improves the quality of the product and offers the ruggedisation that it requires, be it from the harsh temperature or weather conditions. Therefore, adopting Industry 4.0 technologies will enable manufacturing industries to achieve all its KPIs consistently and effectively.

As far as the defence industry is concerned, it is set to benefit immensely with the use of emerging technologies in the manufacturing of autonomous systems, robotics & a host of other solutions for land, sea, air and space environments. The recent establishment of a multi-stakeholder task force on the strategic implementation of AI by the Central government stands as a testament to the sector’s interest in emerging technologies. This will help improve the speed to market, reduce production costs and facilitate more collaborative innovation in the defence space.

Let’s take a look at the technologies that are redefining the defence industry:

  1. Additive Manufacturing (AM)

    AM involves 3D Printing that enables decentralised production and also improves the production considerably. The key elements of AM are:

    • Prototyping

    • Mass production

    Here is how AM helped a European country’s defence capabilities. The growth of AM helped with cost reduction on tools and parts production, enhancements of design, lesser time to reach the end-user as well as increased competitiveness in the technical and commercial side among others.

  2. Augmented Reality (AR)

    AR helps in perceiving the information that is displayed within the soldier’s visual field, thus, reducing the need for training and support.

    Key benefits of AR in defence:

    • Assistance from remote experts

    • Information display

    • Quality analysis

    The US army’s R&D team worked on Tactical Augmented Reality (TAR) that looks like Night-Vision Goggles (NVG) but offers much more than that. It can show the exact location of an enemy as well as the position of the allied and enemy forces. It is mounted to the helmet in the same way as goggles and can work during the day and night. The TAR replaces the conventional handheld GPS device and goggles.

  3. Big Data and analytics

    Big Data and analytics help in the evaluation and analysis of data from several sources & effectively enables real-time decision making and optimisation. Data can be further applied to:

    • Descriptive and predictive analytics

    • Real-time monitoring

    • Using AI to reduce human dependency

    With the use of AI with learning capability, the Indian defence sector is rapidly being digitally transformed. The strategic and tactical intelligence processing has now moved out from typical command centres to an autonomous and augmented military intelligence network.

  4. Simulation

    In the defence sector, there are three types of simulation-live, virtual and constructive. Simulations can range from testing to a completely computer-generated representation of how a system is likely to react to various inputs.

    Key applications:

    • Digital twins

    • Simulation-based design

    • Simulation-based production

  5. The French army evolved its operational requirements using simulations:

    • For preparing the forces

    • For supporting the operations

    • For preparing for the future

  6. Computerised maintenance system

    A computerised maintenance system is a collaborative approach in the management of maintenance repair and overhaul. This helps with longer asset life and assists in reducing operational expenses. US makes use of the computerised maintenance system, which protects US Department of Defence and also the federal and commercial assets located there. Some of the benefits from their maintenance software management are radar tracking gear, aerospace hardware in the air force base and the ground support equipment.

  7. Repair technology

    Repair technology is an essential requirement to ensure that the aircraft is maintained, keeping in mind the airworthiness, to ensure the safety of the passengers during flight as well as the cargo. AM offers a comprehensive repair technology for the military aircraft components. The tests for these were carried by the Australian Air Force & the Defence Aviation Safety Authority.

Capturing opportunities with Industry 4.0

As the digital adoption is evolving from experimenting with new technologies to power the defence sector, company leaders are looking forward to the results due to their huge investment in this. Like the other manufacturing industries, the hold of digital technologies in the defence sector is to enhance the operations and increase revenue. These are the two main components that are affecting the ROI.

With these technological advancements, the defence industry is witnessing various challenges of having a large order book and servicing companies as soon as possible. This means that they have to expedite all their deliveries including assembling aircrafts faster, the quality of maintenance and provision of after-sales service.

These opportunities can be captured with emerging technologies, such as robotics, automation, AR/VR & simulation, to expedite the complete aircraft manufacturing process efficiently. Post manufacturing, there are technologies that we apply mainly on the cloud and big analytics that scans all the logs, complaints, suggestions and requests received from an aircraft user and quickly categorises and addresses them. Digital Twin is another technology extensively being adopted by manufacturers to accurately predict the current state and the future of physical assets by analysing their digital counter parts. It collects the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) data from the deployed assets and then the asset performance across the fleet — based on the operational data over many time periods — in order to optimise the performance and reliability of the products. Using this data, prescriptive analytics then provides value through condition-based maintenance, availability and safety adjustments.

The Industry 4.0 technologies have been assisting the sector in making the existing products smarter with connectivity and sensors and also makes optimum use of advanced manufacturing. Let’s look at the areas and actions that can be taken by the extended defence ecosystem and manufacturers to deliver Defence 4.0 strategy.

  1. Connectivity

    Digital thread helps with a connected flow of data and provides an integrated view of an asset through functional perspectives and several factory walls. A digital thread can increase the supply chain efficiency by about 16% and also reduce the product to market time. Manufacturers can increase the revenue by extending the asset management to supply and also service the customer assets. Defence manufacturers must rely on enterprise software to provide a good level of connectivity.

    Business models that are servitisation-based are now becoming common among the defence manufacturers and this exudes direct customer connectivity requirements. Main aspects of this approach are IoT, in-house customer relationship management, customer systems and third-party contractor’s connectivity.

  2. Configurability

    Manufactured assets are meant to perform specific roles in the military projects, and they expect customisation and a precise schedule of delivery. The main differentiator for defence manufacturers is that they have quite a big scope of project capabilities and the ability to perform on multiple projects that have their own capabilities.

    Complex defence assets should have a broad functional capability in enterprise software and should include efficient manufacturing abilities and financial controls. Once the defence manufacturers have the necessary functions, they must keep in mind that it must be deployed modularly and has to be configured to adapt to the unique requirements. Manufacturers can also introduce Industry 4.0 processes into the factory, like AM machines, complying with the requirements for quality control and monitoring.

  3. Intelligence

    Defence products generate a huge amount of data, sometimes amounting up to 4 million data points. Defence companies must equip themselves to make use of this data for processes like designing phase, manufacturing phase and operations. They can also leverage this information to make new and smarter models. As intelligent technology starts growing in the defence manufacturing sector, supporting software must also try to keep up the pace. Following an inflexible system will hinder the growth of manufacturers from capitalising on new technologies. By adopting open integration standards, the manufacturers should lock in on a compatible evergreen software.

  4. Security

    Enterprise software should be designed with security in mind considering the highly sensitive nature of the information. They must mitigate the threats and risks occurring throughout the software development lifecycle. Keeping this in mind, the US Department of Defence (DOD) has come up with plans for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, a set of cybersecurity standards for the contractors. According to the certification, the companies supplying products or services to the DOD must comply with the 110 security standards specified in it or risk losing their contract. Some of the other countries that have adopted this are the UK — Defence Information Strategy (DIS) and next being Australia — Information Security Manual (ISM).

Creating and implementing Defence 4.0

In the world of Industry 4.0, defence manufacturers can face a crucial decision that is directly connected to the business success and also reap potential benefits, which include increased profits, efficiency, security and satisfaction. Nonetheless, these attributes cannot be gained without the aid of a software facilitator that assists the defence manufacturers to build and execute a Defence 4.0 strategy.

Image Gallery

  • AR helps in perceiving the information that is displayed within the soldier’s visual field, thus, reducing the need for training and support

  • Sharadhi Babu

    CEO & Executive Director


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