Research – HG Insights reports on the findings from Aerospace & Defense Technology Vision 2019, a study that predicts key technology trends likely to redefine business.

The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry will be more affected by artificial intelligence (AI) than by any other major emerging technology over the next three years, according to the report from Accenture. The study also underscores the growing importance of reskilling programs as a competitive lever.

AI impact on aerospace & defense

AI, comprising technologies that range from machine learning to natural language processing, enables machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn in order to extend human capabilities.

  • One-third (33%) of A&D executives surveyed cited AI as the technology that will have the greatest impact on their organization over the next three years — more than quantum computing, distributed ledger or extended reality.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of A&D executives said they have either adopted AI within their business or are piloting the technology. Benefits of AI for the industry include enabling predictive analytics for maintenance; facilitating smart manufacturing with connected devices that provide real-time information to workers on the shop floor; providing advanced automation that enables the workforce to offload repetitive tasks; and enhancing real-time responses to customer issues and complaints, among others.

“AI has the potential to be a major growth driver for the A&D industry,” said John Schmidt, global leader of Accenture’s Aerospace & Defense practice. “However, AI technology is advancing faster than the pace at which many companies are adopting it. A&D executives need to find ways to accelerate their adoption of broader AI solutions that can deliver breakthrough outcomes by focusing not just on the technology but also on how they want to transform their workforce and capabilities.”

Workforce reskilling

The importance of reskilling the A&D workforce to ensure success within companies is a prominent theme in the report.

  • More than two-thirds (69%) of A&D executives believe that the speed at which members of the workforce move between roles and organizations has increased the need for reskilling in their organization.
  • In addition, two-thirds (67%) of A&D executives believe that more than 40% of their workforce will move into new roles requiring substantial reskilling within three years.

AI is both a cause for and a solution to workforce reskilling. For instance, aerospace specialists can now work alongside AI-assisted design technology to quickly cycle through countless design options and test configurations, with intelligent software learning and improving with each iteration. AI will also play a key role in identifying workers’ hidden and adjacent skills and will help them reskill and retain displaced workers.
 
“The rapid adoption of AI has triggered urgent calls for reskilling to prepare for a different way of working,” Schmidt said. “The majority of jobs will be reconfigured as people and intelligent machines collaborate. A&D leaders must reimagine the very nature of work and then build the right training to meet that vision.”

Data and the customer

The report also notes the growing role of digital data and demographics and their role in the A&D industry.

  • Nearly all (95%) of the A&D executives surveyed expect the amount of data their organization manages about their operators’ digital demographics to increase over the next two years, with nearly three-quarters (74%) expecting it to increase either “significantly” or “exponentially.”
  • The increase in available data could prove beneficial for A&D companies. For example, three-quarters (76%) of executives said that digital demographics give their organizations a new way to identify market opportunities for unmet customer needs.

“Insights from digital demographics data allow A&D companies to create a new generation of offerings that foster an ongoing, trustworthy relationship with operators,” said Jeff Wheless, research lead for Accenture’s Aerospace & Defense practice. “Maintenance solutions can be fine-tuned to an aircraft operator’s specific operating environment or enhanced flight planning, which can maximize fuel savings and minimize greenhouse emissions.”

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