Accenture and Thales, a French multinational aerospace and defense systems provider, launched a blockchain-oriented system as part of their digital innovation program. In the works for the past couple of years, the solution was conceived to reorganize the configuration across the supply chain, helping to track, trace and prove origin.
But why is everyone jumping on the blockchain journey?
We’ve seen more and more industries adopting blockchain technologies as a solution to key issues. From pharmaceutical to gaming to real estate, the technology is being leveraged due to its capacity to secure immutable transactional records, information confidentiality and security.
Lately, we’ve seen blockchain’s potential in the aerospace sector. According to Accenture’s research, by 2021, 86 percent of aerospace or defense companies expect to adopt blockchain into their systems within three years. Out of 18 industries, aerospace ranked third for blockchain plans.
Facing industry pain points: blockchain to the rescue
Blockchain is seen as a way to reduce maintenance costs, increase aircraft availability and minimize errors in tracking aircraft parts.
To understand how blockchain can benefit the industry, it’s imperative to understand the pain points affecting the aerospace and defense industry. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Data configuration
- Multi-echelon supply chain visibility
- Authenticating supply
- Certification of people and machines
- Software life-cycle management
Indeed, data and its validity is a recurring issue. According to Accenture’s survey, blockchain can address several hurdles by creating a single source of truth with verified data. The study highlighted, as a critical industry pain point, the use of unreliable data which undermined the decision-making processes.
The threat of corrupted insights as a result of (potentially) falsified data, coupled with the risks of data manipulation and inherent bias attached to automation, means that the sector is turning to blockchain as a safe haven.
It’s not only about airlines but an intricate aerospace ecosystem
The challenge rests on the current data configuration, and at the moment, it sits in the internal data silos of aircraft manufacturers, maintenance providers, and airlines. It is directly linked to supply chain management and authentication of parts and products.
Naturally characterized by complex products and an intricate supply chain involving multiple dynamic participants, there’s a push to implement new technologies in the aerospace and defense sector.
It would allow for secure and trustworthy data management to be the backbone of an intricate supply chain.
To reply to these concerns, Accenture, a world-renowned professional service firm, has been working on a blockchain demo since 2016, specifically tailored to aerospace and defense industry supply chains.
“Blockchain is well-suited to improve the performance of one of the world’s most complex, globally interconnected and security-dependent supply chains,” said John Schmidt, Accenture’s Managing Director for Global Aerospace & Defense Lead.
The Accenture and Thales use case
A blockchain-based configuration management
The technology is being leveraged to “supporting secure collaboration, and process coordination across OEMs, suppliers, and operators.”
The objective is to introduce a single and shared view of the supply chain to help professionals in the field – suppliers, manufacturers and operators – carry out their job efficiently.
According to Schmidt,
“Knowing the actual configuration of an in-service aircraft at any point in time is important. Blockchain enables aerospace and defense companies to securely share, capture and authenticate data from a single source.”
Working in conjunction with Thales, the solution provides the ability to verify the authenticity of parts and supplies from beginning to end across the industry’s complex and heavily regulated supply chains. Schmidt explained:
“Blockchain technology offers a new, elegant and secure way for the industry to track and trace myriad components while deterring counterfeiting and improving maintenance capabilities.”
Based on Linux, the prototype is supported by Hyperledger Fabric, and it will accommodate three techs into one: internet-of-things, the blockchain, and other creative technologies provided by Thales.
Integrating blockchain with IoT
Blockchain isn’t the only technology creating ripples of benefits across the aerospace and defense industry. In April 2018, Accenture published a report, called “Extending the Digital Thread With Blockchain”, where they explained that blockchain can be used in tandem with digital twins, which is essentially a digital replica of an existing physical asset.
By integrating it with the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, the replica modifies itself as changes to the underlying physical asset are made. When extending this idea to data flows, we have what is called a “digital thread”.
This means that the data from the digital twin can move outside the organization and “be shared by manufacturers with suppliers, partners, and operators. As a result, the potential benefits are new insights and revenue sources.”
This replica gives the customer an added value and successfully integrated information systems. It demonstrates how coupling new technologies are complementary to delivering a successful solution to industry issues.
What can we expect for the industry’s future?
“Accenture Technology Vision 2018”, the company’s annual technology report, predicts the top technology trends likely to disrupt the sector in the next three years.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to be the primary source of investment, with two-thirds (67%) of companies planning to invest in it next year, initially focusing on production, security and R&D. A significant portion – 80% – are confident the workforce will feel the effects of AI-based decisions on their daily tasks by 2021.
Meanwhile, 57% plans to invest in augmented reality and virtual reality, with 96% believing extended reality will be essential in bridging the gap between employees and customers.
Innovation has proven to be a necessary tool to excel. The heavy-weight partnership between Accenture and Thales shows that combining success with technology aids in delivering a value-based service, improving the customer and client experience from beginning-to-end.
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