The aerospace sector is facing disruption on an unprecedented scale due to dramatic market dynamics caused by SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic. Increased aircraft demand had been driving a production ramp-up of 30,000-plus aircraft over the next ten years. Now, those plans have hit a wall, and manufacturers and carriers are facing significant overcapacity. Because of Covid-19, it is now certain that demand for both leisure and business flights will be depressed for the foreseeable future. And while we want to travel in an environmentally friendly way, the development of modular, efficient aircraft and the decarbonization of propulsion through electrification and the use of hydrogen fuel cells is going to be initially in flux then put in the fast lane.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the global lockdown have upended every industry sector, some positively, others negatively. The pain and opportunity are not evenly distributed. Aerospace is squarely in the “severe pain” category. Altran, part of Capgemini, has identified four areas of focus for accelerating business recovery driven by product development and service innovation.
Customer expectations for product and service experiences will be different than before the pandemic, so companies must continuously level-set on their customers’ new realities.
Social and physical distancing and other restrictions will be part of our lives and will influence our behavior for the foreseeable future. The aviation industry needs to find out quickly what their customers’ new expectations are so they can make products and services that align with their needs and wants. When it comes to flying, the International Air Transportation Association released a survey in which 40% of passengers said they might wait six or more months after the outbreak is contained to travel by air again.
While Covid-19 had dealt the aerospace industry a severe blow and it is suffering from the cratering of air travel and cancellation of new aircraft orders, production has resumed, and everyone is figuring out what it means to fly again. Post Covid-19, leisure and business customers will prioritize safety and cleanliness, including deep cleaning the workplace, and mandatory masks. Airlines will change the way we board planes and participate in privacy-preserving surveillance apps that track our health status. Touchless interactions and all things online and virtual will be embraced. Ahead are opportunities for the industry to experiment with new digital platforms that will help accelerate the recovery.
We won’t snap back to the way we worked before. Many companies will reevaluate their global supply chains and streamline the way their people work together, virtually and more autonomously. They must monitor employee wellbeing as part of the “new normal” to ensure a safe and secure work environment.
At the top of the list of urgent actions for companies in the aviation industry is bringing people back to work safely—in offices, factories, and facilities—while maintaining the option for virtual work without compromising security. Also, Covid-19 has paralyzed the aircraft manufacturing supply chain and network of subcontracts. So, just as necessary is the need to ensure supply chains are resilient, meet customer delivery and service expectations, and minimize cost, complexity, and risk.
Companies will accelerate differentiation of their offerings, so services play an even more critical role, including digital platforms, engineering automation, and broader collaboration to solve challenging problems more quickly.
Aerospace companies and airlines provide essential products and services that people use every day. That will not change. But the way planes are designed, developed, and produced will. And the necessity of social distancing, even after companies get back to work, is going to be a catalyst to increase automation in factories, offices, and other facilities. By embracing cloud-native and subscription models, aerospace engineers can test ideas quickly and lower the cost to upgrade systems. Airlines can deploy intelligent processes and applications for customer service, contactless passenger experiences, and airline ticketing applications across different markets.
Accelerating digital transformation initiatives will serve to lower cost and elevate responsiveness. The new builder models span everything from model-based systems engineering, virtual twins for simulations to advancements in 3D design to optimize for cost and performance. And a digital continuity culture and approach creates a seamless design process that stitches together market requirements, design and production to streamline operations. Finally, it is abundantly clear that differentiated offerings must align with an increasingly virtualized economy, where the service is as important as the physical product.
Covid19 is a tailwind for companies to consider stakeholder demands for greater environmental responsibility that will impact the R&D agenda for initiatives in aerospace, preventative healthcare, smart cities, urban mobility, green flight, and other areas.
Governments and businesses will learn many lessons during the Covid-19 recovery. The most profound may be the newfound awareness of our planet-centricity and how fragile our interdependencies really are. There is an appreciation that we are one planet, regardless of national boundaries, and we have become more acutely aware of the need for more equitable healthcare, the importance of addressing climate change and bringing prosperity to all people.
The magnitude of the impact on aerospace manufacturers and airlines is significant. The imperatives are business viability, economic interests, and effectively responding to the various scenarios for what will happen to customer demand. At the same time, the pandemic does allow us to inform our approach for how to deal with other global challenges, such as climate change and the need for governments and businesses to embrace international collaboration with a focus on prevention and preparedness.
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