This blog has been writing about a possible deep structural change in the aviation industry, including the aircraft manufacturing. The more it goes the more signs we can see.
This blog entry does not have a very clear plot and only provides comment on press articles in my effort to point out that changes are unfolding slowly but surely.
I have been in the aircraft manufacturing industry since more than two decades in various areas. When I started in the area of structural analysis and more specifically in structure dynamics, things needed much more personal thinking work. I still remember pencil and paper was a very important tool. I still have a copy of my hand written technical note describing the modal analysis based on “subspace iteration”. I still can’t believe today I wrote that paper because when I read it today I just don’t understand at all what is written on those sheet of paper.
At that time, the Cray X-MP on which I worked was the fastest computer. You can read the story in wikipedia (click here). I do not know the level of computing power a MOTO E smart phone has, but I am pretty sure I have more memory space in my pocket than that of the $15 million computer back then.
Can you imagine that? Today, I can run aircraft performance estimation on my mobile phone and I have a complete airport database with the temperature statistics on my android phone. Yes, that is exactly the small smart phone in my pocket.
I just want to say that aerospace industry underwent a very deep transformation during the last two decades in term of manufacturing processes, logistic management, materials and design methodology.
Recently I read something that I have been waiting since many years. I would like you to read the article (click here). It says, “How Boeing Is Doing More Work With Fewer Workers.”
“The world’s largest plane maker is in the midst of its biggest peacetime boom, churning out 20 percent more planes than when the last big cycle peaked in the 1990s.
But it is doing so with one-third fewer workers. In their place, Boeing is turning to robots and outsourcing.“
The Advent Of A New Era
Several weeks ago I wrote something about Nostalgia (click here). Honestly I loved the times we had the time to do things, when we still had the time to think about the possible future steps that would be needed to do some other things. I am not ashamed to say I now miss the white board where we could write things as a support for discussion in meetings back then. Today, projectors replaced those white boards and people just babbling around while staring together on a screen.
Anyways, let’s get back to today’s reality. The reality today is that there are few people, who are extremely clever I must admit, who defined a new way of doing things and producing things. I concede, the result is impressive. When you see a robotic arm in action drilling, putting fasteners and so on, you cannot be otherwise than impressed. And yes, that’s also how Boeing is planning to join the 777-9 fuselage (click here).
Is the above extraordinary? Well, NO. The automotive industry started to use robots decades ago. The computing power, the algorithm and the sensor technology needed to do the very precise job on aircraft manufacturing became available only in the last several years.
It is a slow and silent revolution in the aircraft manufacturing sector and the scary part of the equation is always about the words “productivity” and “cost reduction”. The trend is set and there is no way back.
Again, I know there are very very clever people out there thinking about the new way of designing aircraft, producing them and also managing the supply flow. They are not so many of them, but the methodology these clever people define changes the life of thousands of people.
The revolution is not only on manufacturing, although this is the most visible part. The Computational Fluid Dynamics tools have become mature too. I can tell you that those tools are not perfect, but it is now at a stage where people can design aircraft aerodynamics or high lift configuration without making too many errors. Well, in reality you still need one or two real good aerodynamicists who could make good judgment before some other people run stupid CFD cases, but that’s another story.
The other incredible “progress” is in the commercial areas. When I started my career, airlines bought aircraft themselves, cash or using loans. Then leasing became very popular. Later on the financial lease became popular too. Starting in around the 1990s you have this incredible “asset backed securities” financing scheme that could be combined with tax reduction scheme. I still remember how people call this scheme as “GOL”, “JOL” or other things. GOL stands for “German Operating Lease” and JOL for “Japan Operating Lease”, they basically exploit Germany and Japan loopholes in their tax code. I am not sure this is still valid today.
In the asset backed securities category, you can find a company called Doric which manages a lot of Emirates’ A380 (click here).
Things changed and will continue to change.
The Question Was Asked To Me
Recently, there have been several events concerning Bombardier. Some people asked me the question about the different Quebec investment in Bombardier.
Seriously, I do not know anything.
However, from my very personal point of view I consider it as very positive. In my opinion it would allow a slow and silent revolution in the company. I do not know what it is or what it will be, but I think it is very positive although I feel the change would not be an easy process from employees’ individual prospective.
Why do I say so? It is very simple. I went though many enterprise changes in my career. None of them has been simple. Every change needs personal effort for adaptation. This being said, change is not unsurmountable, the proof is that I am still around. So, you need to be positive, just be positive and actively participate in the slow and silent revolution.