The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry will be more affected by
artificial intelligence (AI) than by any other major emerging technology
over the next three years, according to Aerospace
& Defense Technology Vision 2019, the annual report from
Accenture (NYSE: ACN) that predicts key technology trends likely to
redefine business. The study also underscores the growing importance of
reskilling programs as a competitive lever.
AI, comprising technologies that range from machine learning to natural
language processing, enables machines to sense, comprehend, act and
learn in order to extend human capabilities. One-third (33%) of A&D
executives surveyed cited AI as the technology that will have the
greatest impact on their organization over the next three years — more
than quantum computing, distributed ledger or extended reality.
In fact, two-thirds (67%) of A&D executives said they have either
adopted AI within their business or are piloting the technology.
Benefits of AI for the industry include enabling predictive analytics
for maintenance; facilitating smart manufacturing with connected devices
that provide real-time information to workers on the shop floor;
providing advanced automation that enables the workforce to offload
repetitive tasks; and enhancing real-time responses to customer issues
and complaints, among others.
“AI has the potential to be a major growth driver for the A&D industry,”
said John Schmidt, global leader of Accenture’s Aerospace & Defense
practice. “However, AI technology is advancing faster than the pace at
which many companies are adopting it. A&D executives need to find ways
to accelerate their adoption of broader AI solutions that can deliver
breakthrough outcomes by focusing not just on the technology but also on
how they want to transform their workforce and capabilities.”
The importance of reskilling the A&D workforce to ensure success within
companies is a prominent theme in the report. More than two-thirds (69%)
of A&D executives believe that the speed at which members of the
workforce move between roles and organizations has increased the need
for reskilling in their organization.
In addition, two-thirds (67%) of A&D executives believe that more than
40% of their workforce will move into new roles requiring substantial
reskilling within three years.
AI is both a cause for and a solution to workforce reskilling. For
instance, aerospace specialists can now work alongside AI-assisted
design technology to quickly cycle through countless design options and
test configurations, with intelligent software learning and improving
with each iteration. AI will also play a key role in identifying
workers’ hidden and adjacent skills and will help them reskill and
retain displaced workers.
“The rapid adoption of AI has triggered urgent calls for reskilling to
prepare for a different way of working,” Schmidt said. “The majority of
jobs will be reconfigured as people and intelligent machines
collaborate. A&D leaders must reimagine the very nature of work and then
build the right training to meet that vision.”
Data & The Customer
The report also notes the growing role of digital data and demographics
and their role in the A&D industry. Nearly all (95%) of the A&D
executives surveyed expect the amount of data their organization manages
about their operators’ digital demographics to increase over the next
two years, with nearly three-quarters (74%) expecting it to increase
either “significantly” or “exponentially.”
The increase in available data could prove beneficial for A&D companies.
For example, three-quarters (76%) of executives said that digital
demographics give their organizations a new way to identify market
opportunities for unmet customer needs.
“Insights from digital demographics data allow A&D companies to create a
new generation of offerings that foster an ongoing, trustworthy
relationship with operators,” said Jeff Wheless, research lead for
Accenture’s Aerospace & Defense practice. “Maintenance solutions can be
fine-tuned to an aircraft operator’s specific operating environment or
enhanced flight planning, which can maximize fuel savings and minimize
About the Methodology
& Defense Technology Vision 2019 report is based on
responses from 113 aerospace and defense executives surveyed as part of
Technology Vision 2019. The research process for Accenture
Technology Vision 2019, which is developed annually by the Accenture
Labs and Accenture Research, included gathering input from the
Technology Vision External Advisory Board, a group comprising more than
two dozen experienced individuals from the public and private sectors,
academia, venture capital firms and entrepreneurial companies. In
addition, the Technology Vision team conducted interviews with
technology luminaries and industry experts, as well as with nearly 100
Accenture business leaders. In parallel, Accenture Research conducted a
global online survey of 6,672 business and IT executives to capture
insights into the adoption of emerging technologies. The survey helped
identify the key issues and priorities for technology adoption and
investment. Respondents were C-level executives and directors at
companies across 27 countries and 20 industries, with the majority
having annual revenues greater than US$6 billion.
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