Farnborough looks to the future

The 2018 Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) launched earlier this year under the banner of ‘The future starts here’ and will be supported by a new Aerospace 4.0 feature. We look at…


The 2018 Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) launched earlier this year under the banner of ‘The future starts here’ and will be supported by a new Aerospace 4.0 feature. We look at what’s in store for visitors to the Airshow come next July.

Industry 4.0 promises to revolutionise and transform the manufacturing sector, and therefore is of increasing importance to aerospace.

With Farnborough being one of the world’s premier aerospace events where the entire industry meets, FIA’s new Aerospace 4.0 feature will allow delegates to look at some of the new innovations that are fuelling Industry 4.0 but through the lens of our sector. The hope is that it will go some way to driving a digital mindset into aerospace.

“Many of these new technologies, such as automation, additive manufacturing and simulation have been around for some time, whilst others, such as virtual and augmented reality are just coming online for industrial use,” says Farnborough International’s head of sales and sponsorship, Simon Ford.

“Aerospace 4.0 will showcase these and other component technologies that makeup Industry 4.0, demonstrating how they can be integrated and scaled up to deliver the productivity gains the industry craves. This transformation in manufacturing will optimise all parts of the value chain and impact all suppliers – it even has the potential for creating brand new business models and supply chain relationships. This is why it’s important and timely to launch Aerospace 4.0 at the FIA18.”

Alongside dedicated exhibitors, Ford says that FIA is working with a headline sponsor. While still in the early stages of development, the Airshow will be producing a dedicated Aerospace 4.0 publication that will be launched at Farnborough alongside a conference programme.

“We’ll also look to work with all of our partners to inject real thought leadership into the industry ahead of, as well at the Airshow. We’re very excited by this new feature and hope that the manufacturing industry will visit the show to learn more about it.”

Hype vs reality

What does Ford say to the doubters that think there’s a lot of hype, and cannot see how ‘digitalisation’ and the Smart Factory will drive a company’s return on investment?

“It’s not just about return on investment, it’s about remaining competitive – and that can come from adding value to products, reducing costs, improving quality, cutting out energy waste, streamlining processes; all the things that aerospace companies continuously strive for. Digital technologies simply provide the tools that enable us to accelerate those improvements ahead of the competition. The digital revolution is already with us and the pace of technology development is accelerating. We need to embrace the change and adopt a digital mindset or get left behind.

“The digital landscape is vast and a minefield to navigate, so Aerospace 4.0 will give businesses a platform to learn from and hopefully build business cases. Not all digitalisation has to be costly there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so companies need to understand their own digital maturity, build roadmaps that reflect their own business strategies and get on the journey. We encourage companies to start small and scale up – the revolution won’t happen overnight, despite all the hype.”

Sameer Savani, technology adviser from Farnborough International’s parent company, ADS Group who is leading the Aerospace 4.0 feature alongside Ford adds: “The programmes and investments coming out of the UK Government’s Industrial Digitalisation Review will not only see large scale R&D and skills programmes, but an investment in digital leadership to help drive through that cultural change. Digitalisation needs to be taken up across a business, from the factory floor to the boardroom. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Airbus has hired Google’s Paul Eremenko as CTO to lead its technological revolution.”

Additive manufacturing, automation

Additive manufacturing (AM) techniques, along with automation are increasingly penetrating the aerospace industry. What will FIA be doing to highlight these twin aspects at the airshow?

“AM, industrial automation and other leading-edge technologies are point solutions – they give improvements, without doubt,” Savani explains. “The real step change that Industry 4.0 promises will come from integrating these individual technologies and exploiting them to their full advantage. AM gives the ability to manufacture parts that cannot be made using traditional means, and so opens up completely new design options for engineers – it would be wasted resource to simply print existing parts, as they’re likely to be significantly more expensive. But when advance simulation techniques can be used to model the performance of newly designed, AM parts, in-process measurements of those parts allow them to be made ‘right first time’, and embedding sensors in those parts so they can report back on their performance through their life in operation, you have a number of technologies coming together to make a step change. This is what Aerospace 4.0 will aim to showcase – how these technologies can be brought together, as well as important developments in AM, automation and other Industry 4.0 technologies.”

Automation – in combination with Industry 4.0 – could be viewed as a way of de-skilling the industry, but the most concerning issue is that increasing automation and robotics will be doing people out of jobs. What’s FIA’s view on this?

“The hype around Industry 4.0 is almost as unhelpful as the scaremongering,” says Savani. “Industrial automation frees up people from performing highly-repetitive, boring and sometimes dangerous tasks. The aim should be to apply those people to jobs that humans are uniquely good at, such as design and R&D. Industry 4.0 will impact the labour market, but given that all previous industrial revolutions have increased productivity as well as employment, why should the fourth industrial revolution be any different?

“The right debate to be had concerns what skills a future workforce will need to have. How do we embed the right teaching in our education system, how do we re-skill existing workers whose jobs could be displaced, and how can we transform the workforce to have more people working at the value-adding end of the chain, such as design and less at the non-value-adding end, such as machining?”

Savani thinks the future manufacturing environment will be much more about co-botics rather than a mass replacement of humans for machines.

“People and robots working together as a ‘system’ that makes the best use of their respective strengths. Machines can focus on highly-repetitive and precision processes that exploit their capacity for repeatability; humans can focus on design and interpreting information, which makes use of our intrinsic skills such as creativity and ingenuity.”

FINN at FIA 2018

Other new features being unveiled at FIA18 include industry exhibitor spotlights and an interactive product showcase – a theatre style immersive experience showcasing new technologies. Space is an expanding area and remains a major feature of the show.

The team here at FINN will also produce daily highlights of the show and under the banner of FINN Live, we will broadcast up-to-the-minute news, interviews and commentary across the site-wide large screen network.

“We’re also really excited to be launching the FINN Sessions which will provide a forum to share and discuss the major topics and trends affecting the aerospace industry. Aerospace 4.0 will naturally be a focus here,” Ford concludes. “We hope to have thought-provoking talks, panel discussions, seminars and keynote speakers that will educate, challenge current perceptions and provide ideas of the future. We also hope that some of the seminars will be CPD accredited, giving attendees a valuable opportunity to enhance personal skills and further their career.

“Finally, the development of Hall 1 is progressing really well and we’re looking to be hosting a number of events in the early half of next year before the Airshow in July. We’ll be hosting our exhibitors briefing in the new hall in May, so would recommend all our exhibitors – new and returning – to attend to get a sneak preview of the new facility.”

We recently also interviewed Amanda Stainer, Commercial Director, Farnborough International Air Show, about her hot tips for the event. Watch the interview below:

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