Airbus' Digital Transformation

Simon Barton

On day two of Enterprise Mobility Exchange EU, we heard from Peter Schoonjans, VP, IT Infrastructure, Airbus. In his keynote, he discussed how open source has become important to the airline's digital transformation project.

Like yesterday's presenter, Alan Coates, Head of Planning and Delivery, Ryanair, Airbus has cut project times considerably over the last couple of years, "today all projects are expected to be finished after six months," states Schoonjans. "We're in an industry where there is more demand than supply, it's speed that allows you to stay ahead of the market. If you want to be competitive, you have to be faster."

Airbus' digital transformation involves nine core capabilities, which include:

• Big Data and Analytics

• Virtual Augmented Reality 

• 3D Printing 

• Internet of Things

• The Cloud

• Collaboration

• Mobility

• Artificial Intelligence

• Robots/Drones

Schoonjans states: "A number of these capabilities have been around for a long time, but together play an important role for enterprises. Some of these technologies are not even that new, but they are advancing faster. Many things in digitalisation are a combination of principals." 

As an extension of this, he also discusses the impact of MiRA - a mixed reality application that which provides people working on aircrafts access to 3D models - and how it's been used to improve aircraft inspections. "Instead of doing a manual inspection, you can use a device with camera to map a 3D model of the aircraft. This highlights deviations quickly. It's almost impossible not to see something in an inspection now," says Schoonjans. Airbus is also using drones for inspection: "an aircraft is not like at a car, on an aircraft there are places where it is difficult to reach, this is where we can use drones."

The airline's also keen to embrace mobile devices as a way to revolutionise in-flight entertainment. Schoonjans states: "If every passenger has a mobile device, why not use them? Entertainment systems are expensive and only new on the day they are installed. It is cheaper to implement Wi-Fi, but because the passengers will require considerable bandwidth, the time's not right at the moment." This, once again, shows the future impact of mobile devices on Airbus.

In terms of the company's open-source approach, Schoonjans states "we (Airbus) used to have a lot of open source, but nobody spoke about it. As it got more publicity, we noticed that it has many more advantages. It's not about free, it's about speed." For Schoonjans, the continual sharing of information speeds up your projects. "You can see issues before they arise," he says.

"Open source is a way of working that empowers people and this increases their engagement." It also increases operational excellency because problems can be seen earlier and, according to Schoonjans, "(it can) reduce costs and  support company objectives by increasing competitiveness."

If you would like to hear more about the presentations and case studies at Enterprise Mobility EU we will be updating our website on a regular basis. Interested in the aviation industry's digital transformation projects? Discover how Alaska Airlines is forming its mobile future.