Key Manufacturing Trends and Innovations in the Aerospace and Defense Industry

Things will start to look up in 2022 when the general public can fly again, and carriers will restore full fleet capability.

Fremont, CA: The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on travel and the global airline industry in 2020, making it a challenging year for the commercial aircraft industry. The aviation industry's lifeblood is airlines. As airlines succeed, the rest of the retail sector succeeds as well. As airlines falter, the entire industry falters, from aircraft manufacturers and the global supply chain that supports them to operation, servicing, and MRO. The near-absolute closure of air travel in 2020 was disastrous to the travel industry. It resulted in severe production cuts for aircraft OEMs, as a record backlog of orders vanished almost overnight as airlines shut down and stopped accepting new aircraft deliveries.

The epidemic mostly dissipated, with travel restrictions becoming removed and many airlines restarting pre-pandemic routes. However, re-establishing manufacturing production lines and re-establishing the labor force will take time. Additionally, for Boeing and Airbus to generate sales, the carriers will have to begin accepting new aircraft deliveries, which we should anticipate to be tentative at first when the pages regain their losses, evaluate their revenue sources, and get back on track.

The A&D Industry Capitalizes using Emerging Technologies to Overcome Manufacturing Problems.

The A&D industry has a tradition of being one of the first to implement new technology to advance product production and manufacturing processes. The industry is currently using several primary innovations to address emerging production problems and cope with the pre-pandemic order backlog of aircraft. Additive Aerospace and Defense manufacturing, advanced composite manufacturing processes, digital twin implementation, cognitive manufacturing and advanced analytics, robot/worker partnership, and AI/ML are only a few of the innovations that permeate many aspects of the manufacturing process.

Despite the pandemic-induced slow-down and the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, both Boeing and Airbus continued to build at very high rates. Suppliers in the supply chain were still also operating at or near peak levels. In contrast, 30 to 40 percent of global carriers' fleets are already on the ground. As a result, OEMs can have yet to be delivered and parked on the tarmac.

Although airlines are starting to reopen routes and restore operation as the public resumes flying, the number of passengers is still well below pre-pandemic levels. Things will begin to look up in 2022 when the general public can fly again, and carriers will restore full fleet capability. However, the airlines would not be welcoming any new aircraft orders into their already underutilized fleets shortly. Meanwhile, aircraft manufacturers must take advantage of manufacturing innovations that significantly increase production performance, innovative automation, new materials, and workforce utilization.

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