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Former Member

Aerospace and defense (A&D) companies understand the challenges of Big Data better than most industries. With decades of incorporating computerized automation and sensors into products, A&D professionals like you are ahead of the curve in comprehending how the Internet of Things (IoT) creates burgeoning data volumes that can disrupt operations and business models.

Big Data is generated along the entire A&D value chain – from program management and supply chain to manufacturing and production, and from services to R&D. A clear example of the impact of IoT-fueled Big Data is today’s digital aircraft, which can collect up to 300,000 parameters and generate 0.5 terabytes of data per commercial flight.[1] As technology becomes more sophisticated and sensors create more data, one aerospace manufacturer estimates that data transmission will increase by 14,000% in the next 15 years.[2]

How can you turn these huge volumes of Big Data into new competitive opportunities? A&D companies that successfully learn to unlock the value hidden within Big Data will be best prepared to navigate this change and transform their business. Let’s consider three areas in manufacturing and services where Big Data can help A&D companies transform their business today.

1. Improving operational excellence across the value chain

By analyzing Big Data, many SAP customers have discovered new insights that helped them to reduce non-conformance in production processes, monitor production progress in real time, optimize short-term resource allocation, and gain full visibility of the plant floor so they can increase responsiveness to unplanned events. Here are two use cases:

  • Production quality. The high cost of poor quality negatively impacts product delivery, performance and compliance, and profitability. With predictive analytics features enabled by the SAP HANA platform, leading A&D companies can visualize detailed production parameters, predict future trends on yield and quality, and discover links between seemingly unrelated control data and their impact on performance outcomes. Root cause analysis combines signals from business, shop floor, and products with detailed quality and test results, helping engineers lower production defect rates, improve yield and throughput, and reduce cost.
  • Global plant performance. Suboptimal production processes and performance, unplanned downtime, and poor product quality can inflate costs and damage corporate reputations. By using analytics enabled by solutions such as the SAP Overall Equipment Effectiveness Management application, manufacturers can quickly identify issues on the production floor, collaborate on corrective actions, and implement resolutions for immediate
    operational improvement. Companies can gain real-time visibility into manufacturing processes, compare performance across assets and plants, and take action to improve operational excellence.

2. Harnessing insight from smart equipment
Equipment performance data can be used by services, maintenance, and MRO firms to create valuable business opportunities. By incorporating operational insights and equipment health monitoring data into decisions, firms can improve product reliability and optimize maintenance plans. For example, leading A&D companies are using SAP HANA to analyze huge amounts of aircraft telematics data in real time to detect patterns and abnormalities at the component level (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Sample Real-Time Monitoring Data

In addition, digital aviation firms can use equipment data to support decision making. By blending airline operational data, airplane performance, and OEM engineering information, A&D companies are creating value-added services – such as maintenance planning, fleet benchmarking, and lifecycle cost analysis – that help build customer loyalty, increase service revenue, and improve equipment reliability.

3. Innovating with new Big Data solutions

OEMs can use SAP technologies to create or enhance Big Data solutions and services to better address growing demands in new markets, from cybersecurity to situational awareness. Many firms are using analytics to grow in the highly competitive aftermarket segment, by offering differentiated IT services around fleet and asset management. (In fact, some A&D manufacturers now have more IT developers than SAP.) Benefits include reduced time to market and decreased cost for Big Data initiatives as well as a renewed focus on core capabilities by engineers.

Getting started

What’s the best way to maximize your own Big Data opportunities? Consider the following questions:

  • What are you doing to maximize the value of your company’s data?
  • Are you making the most of your data?
  • Are you identifying valuable insights that can ultimately transform your business?
  • Are you thinking about real-time data and the impact it can have on your processes and people?

SAP offers a differentiated Big Data platform that can help you solve your most complex A&D problems (see Figure 2). With in-memory computing supported by SAP HANA, companies can apply data science, predictive analytics, geospatial analysis, and full text analysis to data from any source. These new technologies can be embedded into the core products of A&D companies or created as standalone solutions for customers.

Figure 2. Unified Big Data Platform for the Digital A&D Enterprise

The opportunities are infinite. “Think about the art of the possible,” asks James Cocca, CIO of Spirit Aerosystems. “What’s a problem you can’t solve – a $10 or $50 million problem? How can you apply the SAP HANA technology to solve it? That’s the real return.” With decades of experience helping leading A&D companies to maximize business opportunities, SAP is ready to help you commercialize your Big Data opportunities.

For more information, please visit our Website on Big Data opportunities for the A&D industry at

About the author:

Magnus Bjorendahl leads the global aerospace and defense industry business unit within the Solutions Go to Market organization at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic success of the solution portfolio across the aerospace and defense industry.

[1] Matthew Finnegan, Boeing 787s to create half a terabyte of data per flight, says Virgin Atlantic,” ComputerWorld UK, March 6, 2013

[2] “787 Airplane Health Management Overview,” March 2013,

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