Building an aircraft requires the assembly of a variety of components. It calls for intricate relationships between OEMs, suppliers, and maintenance companies that make up the supply chain. Given the vast volume of data and information used or produced during the product life cycle, the complexity and decentralisation of the process present many difficulties and scope for error.
For example, the numerous data collection points result in isolated databases, data security issues, data redundancy, and inefficiency. Add to that the task of assessing the sustainability of the product used, and the challenge grows manifold. Evaluating a product's sustainability and whether ecological and social standards have been met is only possible with considerable effort.
These challenges in the aerospace supply chain call for a strategic solution. The answer: Blockchain!
The aircraft supply chain is a critical use case of blockchain in aviation, enabling effective solutions that positively impact industry players and end consumers. The foundation of blockchain design allows for an exchange of information without any manipulation. This includes data about the material used or needed, the process and product details, overall quality, maintenance, etc. The platform also allows the flow of documents authentically, with end-to-end project status information acting as a digital framework of the entire supply chain network.
Blockchain benefits include process automation and synchronisation, transparency, quality, and availability of information. In addition, it guarantees increased security without any error through decentralisation and encryption tools. Most importantly, blockchain helps track aviation parts more effectively, predict when repairs are required, and significantly improve maintenance procedures to address performance standards. It can also follow when a part is added to or removed from an aircraft, how long the parts are in use, who made the repair, when and where it was done, etc.
Blockchain also ticks the sustainability box. It takes a lot of work to evaluate how sustainable a product is. Blockchain technology can result in standardised data collection for the product lifecycle, safe and transparent transmission, and emissions-free product development. It enables holistic data assessment to adhere to ecological, environmental, and social standards across the entire value chain.
In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic which affected the aviation industry most adversely, the deployment of blockchain technology will help reduce costs through better information gathering, enhance overall efficiency, enable better maintenance, and help diagnose potential problems.
In short, blockchain may well be the silver bullet to the unique challenges facing the aerospace industry in the future.
(Chidanand Hiremath is VP, ER&D, Aerospace & Defense, Capgemini India)