The Covid-19 pandemic has cost the aerospace industry dearly with airline losses of $47.7bn (€40.2bn) predicted this year by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Facing this scenario, it is natural for the producers of aircraft to reassess everything from financial yield to production capacity.
For airlines, management of cash takes precedent, especially as predictions when air travel will return to pre-pandemic levels remain ambiguous. In the United States non-essential travel has begun to pick up domestically, while international travel has not yet seen the same increase.
The speed of industry recovery is dependent on the production, procurement, and distribution of vaccines on a global scale, and the knock-on effects of the pandemic will be evident for years to come. That said, there are still opportunities to do business in the United States aerospace sector for companies that are flexible, innovative and cutting-edge.
Supported by Enterprise Ireland, the Emerald Aero Group (EAG) is a cluster of ten Irish companies with distinct capabilities in fabrication, composites, plastics, and component manufacturing collaborating together to supply companies in the global aerospace market. Through their diverse yet complimentary range of skills, expertise, and capabilities the group has combined their considerable resources to achieve impossible solutions for clients. With the ability to offer industry-leading production times and a competitive price structure, the group is ready to help US aerospace manufacturers on the road to recovery.
Innovation centres are another opportunity for companies looking at the US aerospace industry. Traditionally the spend on innovation is low, but we have seen an increased demand for low-risk digital innovations that are more likely to provide an ROI and help reduce costs.
It’s no secret that Covid-19 has sped up digital adoption, and areas such as staff training, component tracking, and repair and maintenance can be greatly assisted by the adoption of Irish digital technologies that are changing the way major United States organisations do business. Irish digital companies such as ASD (Aerospace Software Developments), VRAI and Antikytera are leading the way on this front.
ASD offers radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking solutions to the world’s major airlines, turning the traditionally slow and cumbersome process of manually tracking items, such as life jackets on a plane, into a task that can be done in a matter of seconds.
ASD’s solution also provides an automated, historical record of each manufactured item. The company provides consultancy services to airlines, MROs and inventory component suppliers in the aviation market who require design expertise or specialist software applications.
Dublin-based VRAI has carved out a niche with its unique virtual reality training solutions which are especially relevant now as many staff can’t complete their training on site.
VRAI’s solutions are fully customisable and their latest project with the Royal Air Force is testament to the value they can bring to the aerospace sector.
AR tech company Antikytera is alleviating the inability to travel by offering field technicians, now stuck at home or in the office, the opportunity to have calls with experts and allow for the live importation of annotations and 3D models, meaning that offsite experts can walk a layman through these processes saving time and money.
While the technology is being adapted across industries, there is a huge opportunity for MRO technicians to capitalise on this unique low-effort digital solution.
Necessity is the mother of invention and competition increases efficiency. If any upshots are to come out of the pandemic for the aerospace industry it will be that there is an accelerated adoption of digital solutions and a more flexible and resilient supply chain.
The companies that chose to partner with Irish firms are gaining a distinct competitive advantage and setting themselves up to get back flying on all fronts.
Steve Keogh is trade development executive for the Energy and Aerospace sector at Enterprise Ireland.