10 Questions for Embracing the Defense Sector’s New Normal

Written by: Alexander Daly

Read Time: 4 min

Brent Baker, VP, Global Federal Aerospace & Defense, PTC, co-authored this post

As industry and government stakeholders navigate through COVID-19, enterprises are having to consider what the "new normal" means for their organizations.

A few things have become crystal clear amid the crisis:

  • The emphasis on remote work is here to stay, due to the efficiency gains alone. COVID-19 was an accelerator of a trend that was already in motion for knowledge workers, who are 25% of the global workforce. Software as a Service (SaaS) will play a critical role here.
  • Front line workers, who comprise the other 75%, also have an unprecedented opportunity to use technology to retain knowledge and perform tasks more efficiently. Augmented reality (AR) will play a critical role here.
  • The other factors at play in the global macro picture aren’t slowing down due to COVID-19. These include threats from near-peer competitors in AI and Hypersonics, the need to service FMS contracts overseas, constrained R&D budgets, a retiring workforce, and (despite 15% unemployment in the broader economy), the defense sector is undergoing a hiring surge as firms rebalance portfolios out of commercial to defense. 

There are no easy answers to a crisis as unprecedented as this. That said, some technology platforms, if applied in a thoughtful and strategic way, can begin to "chip away" at specific challenges.

Let's focus on the enterprise software space for a moment, especially for engineering, maintenance, and training functions. In both industry and government, there are emerging thought leaders who are making decisive moves to proactively usher in this new reality from a position of strength, and on their own terms.

Below are the types of questions they have already faced: 

1. Remote Work

Especially challenging right now are capabilities for document management, requirements, CAD data management and workflows. How can our teams get the same richness in functionality for enterprise systems like PLM in the home office that they used to have on-premise?

2. Factory Environment

Our manufacturing facilities are slowly coming back online. But social distancing will mean fewer people on the floor, so we need greater automation. Can we use IoT to monitor equipment in real time and predict failures on machines before they happen? 

3. Maintenance Training

We’ve been facing the retiring workforce problem for years, but COVID-19 is now forcing social distancing in our maintenance depots too. Similar to manufacturing facilities, this will mean fewer people on the floor, and all of them will need to learn new tasks. Can we use AR technology to capture the knowledge and insight of one worker and use it to immediately train others?

4. Program Management

Which programs are most at risk due to supply chain issues? How much of a delay will these issues mean to production?

5. Supply Chain

How many critical suppliers are currently offline. What are our options for alternate sourcing?

6. Supplier Collaboration

Are the suppliers who are online able to collaborate effectively? Do we have a centralized portal for collaboration that covers acquisition and sustainment functions?

7. Cost Management

We may need to invoke a temporary engineering change to the fleet due to supply chain shortages. Based on current equipment configurations, what will be the cost implications of that change on a per unit basis, then across the entire fleet?

8. Digital Engineering

We need to comply with emerging DoD standards for digital engineering, including models-based acquisition, product data, and readiness. Can we accomplish that given our current technology portfolio or do we need to recalibrate?

9. Service Parts Management

Can we lower supply chain risk by optimizing inventories or even scenario plan for future shocks to ensure we aren’t caught off-guard again if there is a ‘second wave’ or similar event?

10. Product Design

We need more agility in product design, especially among geographically dispersed teams. Could we use a SaaS product development platform that includes CAD, workflows, parallel processes, bill-of-materials management and real-time design reviews?

During LiveWorx 2020, PTC President & CEO Jim Heppelmann talked about four ‘thriving skills’ organizations will need to refine in this new environment:

  •  Workforce Mobility & Resiliency
  • Flexible & Innovative Supply Chains
  • Front Line Workforce Connectivity & Collaboration
  • Remote Monitoring of Products & Factories 

First is augmented reality. On the training side, one PTC offering uses AR, voice and video to naturally capture work instructions from experts that can be immediately conveyed to an entire workforce. Having a visual and auditory experience (vs. simple 2D) dramatically cuts training times. This is especially critical for the highly complex and configured product sets in the defense sector. PTC also enables remote assistance, which allows front line technicians at a work site to have a virtual chat session with a remote expert. This replicates the ‘over the shoulder’ mentoring that is critical for front line workers but avoids the costly travel and contact exposure of deploying an expert in person.

Second is the product development space. Anticipating the market trend of engineering software moving rapidly to SaaS, PTC acquired Onshape in late 2019. The urgency of the crisis has also accelerated adoption of this technology. As Kathleen Mitford, PTC’s EVP and Chief Strategy Officer recently commented “Onshape…has been a shining star for us during the COVID-19 crisis. Many different engineers and developers cannot access their CAD software remotely, but with Onshape users can access their software anywhere, anytime.” It is clear SaaS will be the architecture of the new normal. Additionally, PTC’s PLM offering is not only web-enabled, but was specifically architected that way from its beginning over 20 years ago. That means knowledge workers can immediately use it while working from home.

Finally, is the supply chain itself. PTC Servigistics uses data-science to predict future service parts needs. This has been particularly helpful during the crisis because it mitigates supply chain challenges before they intensify by deciding what to stock, where to place it and when to move, procure or repair equipment in order to achieve the highest readiness level.

Tags: CAD Connected Devices Augmented Reality Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Service Lifecycle Management (SLM)

About the Author

Alexander Daly

Alex Daly leads PTC’s Federal Aerospace and Defense efforts for DoD programs to government and industry customers. In this role, he creates strategies for improving processes around product design, manufacture, operations and support through the application of software platforms from PTC. Mr. Daly also leads PTC’s government relations efforts on Capitol Hill. His specific areas of enterprise software include PLM, CAD, IIoT, AR, Analytics, Simulation, Artificial Intelligence, Generative Design and Cybersecurity.

Prior to his current role, Mr. Daly was the Founder of Arch One Holdings, a business development consultancy based in Washington, DC supporting the homeland security industry. He also has extensive experience in change management and finance related to the technology services market in the U.S. and East Asia. In a previous role with Hitachi, Ltd., Mr. Daly developed global alliances for business and technology consulting services between the U.S. and Japan and supported the creation of a subsidiary consulting firm in Tokyo. Earlier in his tenure with Hitachi, he focused on M&A initiatives, created a corporate venture capital fund and directed channel sales with alliance partners.

Mr. Daly studied in Japan for 2 years and holds a B.A. in Economics/Japanese from St. Lawrence University.