How Agile PLM is Driving Aerospace Innovation in 2024

Shaun Kennedy

Content Manager

June 21, 2024

AerospaceAgile PLMNewSpaceSpace StartupsSpace Tech

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The aerospace manufacturing market is forecasted to grow from $952.4 billion in 2021 to $1.39 trillion in 2030, reflecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3%. The development of innovative commercial solutions, such as data services and payload ride-sharing, is driving significant growth across the industry.

But with great opportunities come obstacles. The aerospace industry has long needed to modernize systems and processes. In a survey by Gartner, 47% of aerospace companies reported a supply chain disruption, with an estimated average cost of $184M per disruption. 

Coupled with this disruption are complex aerospace regulations. ITAR compliance and FEDramp aside, space companies are now expected to safely dispose of their upper stages. The growing demand and public interest in the “race to space” have also put the need for robust and intuitive aerospace software and technology at an all-time high. 

With a need for modernization and stringent regulations, it’s no surprise that aerospace companies today make up around 25% of the PLM market, the biggest sector in the PLM industry. Aerospace companies use PLM to document design information for audits, launch permission, and timely product development. 

This article will showcase how cloud PLM software powered by agile workflows can ramp up efficiency and innovation to future-proof the aerospace industry for all involved. 

What is Agile PLM?

Agile PLM refers to applying agile methodologies to traditional product lifecycle management processes. Where all PLM solutions aim to manage the stages of a product’s lifecycle from inception through design, manufacturing, and service to retirement, this approach integrates the principles of flexibility, speed, and responsiveness into product lifecycle management

By incorporating iterative development, regular feedback, and cross-functional teamwork, agile PLM processes enable hardware teams and organizations to adapt quickly to changes, improve products continuously, and effectively meet customer needs. 

Leveraging flexible cloud-based PLM software ensures all stakeholders have real-time access to product data, facilitating better decision-making throughout the product’s lifecycle.

Duro Cloud-Native PLM

Agile PLM benefits

Enhanced flexibility & responsiveness

Agile PLM enables companies to quickly respond to market demands or technology changes, adapting products without delays typical of complex PLM systems that require manual data input and extensive admin, such as inadequate IT infrastructure, poor integration, and extensive training.

Streamline project workstreams

Agile PLM optimizes workstreams by extending beyond engineering into the supply chain, streamlining processes, and ensuring seamless collaboration. It provides a digital platform to define project scope, assign tasks, and integrate real-time updates across all departments. Agile workstreams improve efficiency, traceability, and collaboration, helping companies reduce bottlenecks, avoid duplication, and ensure timely project completion.

Collaboration

Since agile PLM systems centralize data in a cloud environment, they foster improved team collaboration. Everyone–designers, engineers, suppliers, and customers can access the latest information, reducing misunderstandings and ensuring alignment among all stakeholders.

Faster time-to-market

Agile PLM reduces development times by streamlining the product development process through iterative cycles and continuous feedback. Automated data entry and validation rules ensure accuracy and reduce rework. This rapid iteration cycle allows for faster time to market, giving companies a competitive edge.

Cost Efficiency

Cost efficiency is key for aerospace manufacturers, and agile PLM solutions play a vital role in achieving it. By streamlining processes and facilitating early problem detection, agile PLM helps minimize wasteful practices and ensures that resources are allocated efficiently, ultimately driving cost savings and enhancing competitiveness in the space industry.

Why Aerospace is leading the PLM software market

With the aerospace industry making up 25% of the PLM market, aerospace companies are gradually embracing the flexible benefits of agile PLM software. While aerospace manufacturing companies are traditionally complex and highly regulated, the emergence of space startups brings a demand for accelerating product development and getting to market on time. Here’s why PLM helps.

Engineers rely on PLM for efficiency and traceability

Most predominant aerospace companies, like Airbus, are large, well-established companies with extensive data, operational procedures, and departmental regulations. With the emergence of newspace companies like Muon Space, PLM drives innovation, particularly in developing smaller satellites. The space startup recently announced plans to use climate-monitoring satellites to collect cloud characterization data for the U.S. Air Force.

Both established aerospace companies and emerging space startups need full traceability of parts and revision history. PLM systems ensure they can efficiently bring products to market without missing crucial steps, providing team members access to accurate, up-to-date information.

Muon Space software-defined microwave sensor. Image Muon Space

Design data is reused in newer products

Aerospace engineers must ensure design data remains accessible for decades, as aerospace designs serve as baselines for future iterations. This is particularly challenging when seeking to implement PLM systems capable of retrieving design data years later. Aerospace companies use PLM software to track and store historical design documents effectively, gaining a centralized, reliable information store. 

For example, SpaceX’s advancements were primarily driven by studying past design methods and manufacturing processes. Engineers at SpaceX reviewed old rocket design books detailing approaches used during the Apollo program. Enhancing these original ideas with new materials, methods, and software-driven systems led to significant improvements.

Aerospace engineers need integrated tech stacks 

Adopting flexible and integrated tech stacks is crucial in aerospace engineering, facilitating swift deployment and easy team collaboration. Pre-built CAD, ERP, and MES system integrations that come with agile PLM platforms help facilitate the sharing of design information, promote essential collaboration throughout product development, and prevent manual data entry errors. 

Aerospace PLM success

Gilmour Space embraced an agile PLM strategy to elevate its design and change management workflows. Gilmour integrated cloud-native PLM software with its CAD, MES, and requirements management tools to boost transparency throughout its product lifecycle. These integrations helped Gimour develop a three-stage rocket and raise $36M ahead of its 2024 launch. 

Navigating Regulatory Aerospace Compliance

As aerospace companies develop technologies and products for the defense and commercial sectors, they face increasingly stringent regulations. To comply with these requirements, all aerospace companies must ensure ITAR compliance.

What is Aerospace Regulatory Compliance?

Aerospace regulatory compliance involves adhering to various standards and regulations that govern the design, manufacturing, operations, and disposal of aerospace components and systems. These regulations ensure safety, reliability, and environmental stewardship in aerospace operations. 

Compliance is not just about following rules to avoid penalties but integrating these standards into the fabric of organizational processes to enhance efficiency and reliability. Agile PLM helps aerospace companies respond quickly to regulatory changes and maintain full traceability of design data at every stage of product development.

What is ITAR Compliance?

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) are a series of regulations the United States government enforces to govern the export and import of defense-related goods and services. For aerospace companies, ITAR compliance is crucial as it ensures that their products, technologies, and services do not fall into the hands of unauthorized users, thereby protecting national security. 

ITAR regulation requires rigorous documentation, strict control of product data, and thorough training for all personnel developing and distributing defense-related products. Agile PLM supports ITAR compliance by securing sensitive data, managing access controls, and maintaining a comprehensive audit trail of all product-related activities, ensuring that all processes are transparent and verifiable. 

What is Gov NIST-800-53?

Navigating regulatory compliance in the aerospace industry also involves adherence to Gov NIST-800-53 standards. Established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), these standards outline a comprehensive framework for ensuring robust cybersecurity practices within federal government agencies and their IT systems. Aerospace companies operating within or alongside government programs must align with these standards to safeguard sensitive data and ensure system integrity and security.

Implementing agile PLM processes enables aerospace manufacturers to effectively manage their IT security posture and streamline compliance efforts with Gov NIST-800-53 requirements, enhancing resilience against cyber threats and maintaining trust with government stakeholders.

Enhancing Aerospace Supply Chain Management

An agile approach helps aerospace companies reduce supply chain disruptions. Using agile PLM to integrate real-time data and foster collaboration across teams and stakeholders, aerospace teams can adapt swiftly to changes in the supply chain.

Aerospace supply chain challenges

Supply chain challenges range from quality control issues to component shortages, labor strikes, and geopolitical tensions. Resilinc’s 2023 data highlights the aerospace sector’s vulnerability, ranking it among the top five industries impacted by such events. Notably, aerospace executives have increasingly emphasized supply chain issues over the past decade.

“Our analysis shows that aerospace executives were about 18 times more likely to mention supply-chain-related terms, such as “shortages,” during earnings calls in 2022 than they were in 2014.”  – McKinsey

The ongoing impact of COVID-19 has added to disruptions in the aerospace supply chain, leading to declines in new aircraft orders. To navigate these challenges, aerospace companies must adopt proactive measures such as mapping and monitoring the supply chain to mitigate risks and maintain operational continuity. Agile PLM plays a central role in facilitating swift responses to disruptions by centralizing data and enhancing visibility, thereby ensuring operational stability.

Streamlining aerospace bill of materials 

PLM software optimizes the management of aerospace bill of materials (BOM), ensuring precise tracking and accountability for all components and materials throughout the supply chain. Through BOM management, agile PLM enhances accuracy, minimizes material wastage, and streamlines procurement processes for aerospace companies. Integrations with off-the-shelf parts distributors and procurement applications foster seamless collaboration and ensure that aerospace manufacturing processes adhere to design and engineering specifications.

Optimizing aerospace change orders

Change management is a key aspect of aerospace manufacturing, where even minor modifications can have substantial implications. Agile PLM facilitates the efficient handling of engineering change orders, allowing for seamless updates and quick sharing of new information across stakeholders, suppliers, and manufacturing teams. With this agile approach, all parties remain informed of any changes, reducing the risk of errors and aligning production with the latest standards and regulations.

Aerospace engineers & drone prototype

Managing aerospace components 

Agile PLM enhances the management of aerospace components. The software helps track specifications, usage history, and documentation for each component and product. Aerospace engineers can leverage cloud PLM tools to optimize designs and material selections based on performance requirements and regulatory standards, using integrations with requirements management tools and simulation and analysis tools.

Streamlining collaboration and procurement management

The procurement process involves multiple layers of negotiation and regular compliance checks. Cloud PLM facilitates this by integrating inventory management, demand forecasting, and regulatory compliance tools. It ensures that aerospace companies can manage operations more smoothly and adapt to market changes.

Even if you’ve skimmed the above benefits, the takeaway is that an agile approach to these processes is not a luxury but a necessity for today’s aerospace manufacturers. By incorporating agile PLM into their systems, aerospace companies mitigate the risks associated with global supply chain complexities and enhance their ability to innovate and maintain competitiveness in a demanding industry.

Agile PLM - Future-proofing the Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry is expected to experience significant growth in the coming years. Increasing demand for new aircraft, technological advancements, governmental funding, and the ongoing emergence of newspace companies are all driving innovation. 

Key aerospace industry trends, such as the miniaturization of satellites, advancements in space manufacturing, and the proliferation of LEO satellites, are reshaping the landscape and creating new opportunities.

Today’s aerospace companies and space startups must focus on agility, innovation, and resilience to navigate uncertainties and capitalize on growth opportunities. With aerospace industry employment expected to grow 6% by 2031—faster than the average for all occupations—everyone from engineers to designers must be equipped with the right technology.

Agile PLM transforms and strengthens supply chain resilience, ensures regulatory compliance, and facilitates predictive maintenance for aerospace teams. By embracing agility, aerospace companies can speed up product development, improve quality standards, and achieve sustainable growth in an ever-changing landscape.

Duro’s out-of-the-box PLM platform is intuitive for your entire hardware team.

Protect your work from overwrites without leaving your CAD tool.

Nearly limitless integrations give you flexibility to build the hardware tech stack your team deserves.

API

Duro’s GraphQL API allows you to query rich data on your libraries.

Stay compliant and launch on schedule.

Get affordable PLM and stay agile

Computer Infrastructure

Scale your computer hardware manufacturing.

Energy Management

Gain efficiency by centralizing documentation.

Stay up to date with Duro’s latest content, including blogs, videos, eBooks and more.

Read the latest articles on PLM, space tech, hardware trends and more.

View product tours and demos. Plus get tips from Duro’s leadership team.

Watch hardware experts chatting about current topics and showcasing demos.

Download free information eBooks about PLM and trends in the industry.

Get to know Duro and our mission to revolutionize hardware.

See our latest job listings and what makes our team tick.

News on Duro, including fundraising, team additions and integration partnerships.