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There are some industries where you don’t expect to hear the word “simple” bandied about.

Take the high-tech, high-stakes world of aerospace and defense for example. How does “simple” apply to launching a satellite thousands of miles into outer space or building a modern nuclear-powered aircraft carrier?/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/wisconsin_663576.jpg

Well, the fact is that more and more companies in all industries are looking for ways to simplify their operations and business processes – even if their products remain extremely sophisticated.

And A&D is no exception.

Simplification in Action


In his recent blog, The Need for Simplification: Six Steps for Remaining Competitive in Aerospace and Defense, SAP’s Thomas Pohl writes how driving complexity out of the business can help A&D companies:

  • Achieve operational excellence
  • Increase shop-floor throughput
  • Build new services and support businesses
  • Manage workforces more effectively
  • Increase product innovation
  • Leverage business networks

And guess what?

These same results were the very topics of conversation and presentations at last week’s SAP North America Aerospace and Defense Innovation Days event hosted in Norfolk, Virginia. Here, representatives from some of the top companies in the A&D industry gathered to exchange ideas and share their stories of success and innovation.

Among the presenters was Lockheed Martin – one of A&D’s most diversified companies. Lockheed Martin develops products ranging from ground-based air surveillance radar systems to new spacecraft designed to explore the planets and asteroids in our solar system.

Lockheed Martin described how the company is using the SAP HANA platform to streamline existing operations and drive operational excellence. This includes boosting the performance of critical analytics systems and accelerating the cycle time of month-end financial close processes. The company is now validating SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA and has already observed significant database size reductions up to 67%. Lockheed Martin expects even further reductions as they continue their SAP HANA journey.

Event attendees also heard from The Boeing Company. Boeing, of course, is a leader in commercial aircraft. In fact, Boeing airplanes represent three-fourths of world’s fleet with nearly 12,000 jetliners in service.

The folks from Boeing had their own success story to tell. They talked about how Boeing is combining the latest SAP technologies with their aircraft maintenance data to develop a new generation of aircraft health monitoring systems that can help identify potential problems before they occur. The initial performance results with SAP HANA deployed as managed services in the cloud have been impressive. In the past, it could take Boeing up to one week to retrieve a certain report from their legacy database; with SAP HANA they can do it in 16 minutes. This kind of speed enables Boeing to run tests of the health monitoring system using data from across the entire worldwide fleet.

The Perfect Venue


Norfolk was a perfect setting for the three-day event. The city is home to the world’s largest Navy base, and presenters at the event literally stood in the shadow of the USS Wisconsin a decommissioned battleship that now serves as a museum and is open to the general public.

Across the waters of Hampton Roads from the Wisconsin is the Newport News shipyard. There, Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) is constructing the USS Gerald R. Ford – the first of a new class of aircraft carriers. As event-goers soon learned, NNS adds new technologies with each ship they build and refines the shipbuilding process each step of the way. These days, such refinements and technologies include robotic welding, laser scanning, air-blown fiber optics, and the use of light-weight composite materials where appropriate.

Scheduled to be delivered to the fleet in 2016, the USS Gerald R. Ford will feature a number of innovations. According to a U.S. Navy fact sheet, the Ford is the first aircraft carrier with all-electric utilities – eliminating, for example, the steam service lines previously employed in the catapults used to launch the aircraft. The new ship is designed to operate effectively with nearly 700 fewer crew members than the previous Nimitz-class ships, and each ship in the new Ford-class is expected to save more than US$4 billion in total ownership costs during its 50-year service life.

It’s a pretty good example of greater simplicity in a complex world.

More Stories to Come


These are just snippets of what was shared at the event. Look for some customer-specific stories in the coming weeks. In the meantime, click here to learn about SAP solutions and expertise for the aerospace and defense industry.

Did you miss the SAP North America Aerospace and Defense Innovation Days in Norfolk? If so, come and see our A&D experts at the upcoming SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando this May 5-7.

For more information and stories about simplifying IT with the SAP HANA platform, please visit IT & Me.

And please join me on Twitter at @JohnGWard3.

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