The aerospace and defense industry is a major source of innovation and technological advancements. It plays a critical role in national defense, enables safe and efficient air travel, increases communication and the dissemination of knowledge, and contributes to increased consumerism and the globalization of supply chains.
Since the Wright Brothers' first powered flight in 1903, the aerospace industry has had an enviable record of achievement. From transforming modern transportations to landing a man on the Moon — it's no surprise the American aerospace industry's positive track record and strength makes it one of the largest contributors of employment in manufacturing. So what are some of the challenges this group faces?
1. Managing Aerospace's Supply Chain
Last year, the aerospace and defense industry (A&D) experienced growth in every manufacturing sub-sector, from commercial aerospace to cyber. Deloitte estimates that, over the next decade, annual global production for aircraft is predicted to increase by 25%.
Aligned with the sourcing activity on Thomasnet.com, sustained growth is expected in the aerospace fasteners market. As the major manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus expand their manufacturing output, the demand for fasteners will increase greatly, with a heavy emphasis on fasteners made of titanium.
But some suppliers are struggling to keep up with the growth. Production rates for Airbus and Boeing programs are aggressive, with record order books for commercial OEMs supporting forward production for 8-10 years. According to EY, as OEMs ramp up production to deliver their large backlogs, suppliers become pressured to ensure timely delivery while keeping costs under control. Aerospace and defense groups’ supply chains can be very challenging to manage as they depend on thousands of suppliers and subcontractors to procure raw materials, build complicated parts and components, and offer secondary services including specialized finishes and treatments.
But achieving the right level of operational excellence to support production growth while maintaining quality and keeping costs under control can be a key challenge. It's a fast-paced world we live in these days, and digital is how things get done — especially business. And just having it in place doesn't always guarantee success. It requires innovation on the shop floor, better customer experience online, stronger engagement, and a supply chain system that has the accuracy to fulfill orders — all working together.
In A&D, where supply chains can be large and operations vary across applications and have stricter guidelines, it's imperative that supply chain and inventory management solutions remain flexible and resilient.
2. Managing And Retaining A Diverse Workforce
For the aerospace industry, the workforce is its strongest asset with the wage and benefits of an average worker at $92,742 — significantly higher than the average salary of an American worker, $49,389.
Growing the workforce with the necessary skills to compete globally is essential to remaining a leader in the aerospace industry. Products and services in the aerospace and defense industry are like no other — so it is growing its diverse labor base in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
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According to an EY survey, businesses with diverse teams enhance an organization's ability and produce better financials. The aerospace industry regularly deals with cross-cultural competencies so companies with an understanding of various countries put them at a more strategic and competitive advantage. Inability to hire or retain talent could result in difficulty of retaining key contracts and loss of competitive edge in the market. Some professionals prefer to source locally and find suppliers near them to support their community (click here to make sure you're one of them).
The multigenerational workforce and skills gap has been a top challenge for U.S. manufacturers for the past several years. Older workers are retiring and many are worried that there are not enough people with the right skills in the workforce. Lack of diversity and ineffective succession planning as more employees move toward retirement have become a risk — but there are opportunities for improvement.
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The good news is that the millennial generation is seeing an immediate return on investment in schooling and training in STEM fields and STEM-related companies are increasingly interested in hiring workers with a liberal arts background.
The aerospace industry is a mature industry — Boeing has been established for more than 100 years! Since the industry is more evolutionary than revolutionary, the aerospace industry workforce is highly experienced and knowledgeable. But the challenge is preserving that knowledge while driving collaboration and innovation across generations.
Although manufacturing and industrial companies have been adopting new technologies on their shop floor, like AI and robotics, many are still slow to embrace a digital transformation in their sales and marketing departments. In fact, 22 percent of recently surveyed small business owners in the U.S. by Thomas reported marketing and sales as a top challenge for them. Traditional approaches are no longer the sole methods for growth. Companies need to provide ongoing training to drive the next generation of workforce while ensuring the more seasoned employees don't get left behind.
Those companies who can leverage all latest technologies in their processes, planning, and production effectively will be those who lead the way in aerospace innovation — like these who got listed on Thomasnet.com.
Gain A Competitive Edge In The Aerospace Industry
The A&D base is strong and innovative, capable of providing a massive supply delivery with companies who are leaders in their field. ESI, a custom metal stamping and assembly services company implemented new technologies to expand their market outreach, including tapping into aerospace. As a supplier or manufacturer, what steps can you take to make sure your company is in the running for aerospace and defense contracts? There are multiple paths to becoming a defense supplier and basic requirements like ISO certifications, ITAR, and First Article Inspection (FAI). But beyond the basic checklist and registration steps is the foundation of it all — the strength of your brand.
Great storytelling is still at the heart of every great marketing effort for brand awareness and key to nurturing leads into a customer. Every company in every industry, including aerospace manufacturers, have causes that matter to their brand. Quite often these causes also matter to the brand’s audience, because we're simply all human. The right stories spark conversations, showcase your expertise and ultimately, drive leads and sales opportunities.
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For example, sustainability and green-business practices have become a focus of the Aerospace Industries Association. Think about your company's role in sustainability and green manufacturing. How can you relay this story and have it resonate with your buyers? Showcase your green-ness on your website and support your content marketing effort with an inbound marketing approach — after all, you want to get shortlisted and win the bidding process, right? Keeping your website up to date with the certifications, registrations, sustainability efforts and subject matters the aerospace industry cares most about will make sure your brand stands out during the evaluation process — and make sure they're highlighted on your Thomasnet.com listing too.
Global demand for U.S. products is steadily rising and the progress we've seen in the aerospace industry will continue to grow and drive America's economic prosperity. Is your manufacturing and industrial company in the best position to support A&D growth? Contact us to find out where you can improve.
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