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Author's profile photo Thomas Pohl

From deal-making to plane-making or why the aerospace industry needs digital transformation

By the end of the 51st Paris Air Show, the big two giants, Airbus and Boeing had claimed some $107bn in aircraft orders, with Airbus pipping Boeing by securing commitments for 421 jets, to the US airframers 331. The Airbus sales were worth $57bn at list prices, with Boeing’s worth $50bn. Though the total sales of $107bn was down from the 2013 event in where they racked $134bn in orders, the numbers are still impressive give the seven-year production backlogs.

However, at this year´s airshow not only the numbers of deal announcement were important. Capacity, efficiency and transformation of processes were the buzz words of this year´s aerospace industry´s annual jamboree. It was all about how to step up production to meet the 12,000 commercial aircraft orders already stacked up for the coming decade.


During the last century, the Aerospace & Defense sector has become a truly global industry. It is also one of the most complex, involving highly sophisticated manufacturing processes and equally complex supply chains. It employs hundreds of thousands of people from a diverse range of skills and functions and has a customer base that now expects a seamless, digital experience – from placing orders in the manufacturing process to booking a plane ticket and reserving your seat.

To reflect the forces that are shaping the industry, this year’s show was themed around transformation through innovation. Attendees were looking to understand what digitalization will mean for their future business models, their products and services, their business networks (customer and suppliers) and their employees. SAP has been playing an integral role in helping industry players adapt to these new digital realities, providing solutions to more than 900 Aerospace & Defense companies around the world. And this year, SAP, as well as more than 80 of its customers, exhibited at the Paris Air Show for the first time to showcase new innovations for the sector.

With HANA at the core, SAP is already supporting leading industry players such as Boeing in crafting a vision for their “Digital Aviation” strategy, allowing them to remodel how they operate in the air and on the ground to deliver a world-class passenger experience. SAP partner Airbus is also focused on driving digital transformation through its business and plans to open an innovation center in Silicon Valley in an effort to woo technologists as potential partners. And in the defense space, Lockheed Martin is pushing innovations in areas such as data analytics to help predict lead times to reach the company’s goal of 80 percent probability rates.

For an industry that turns over hundreds of billions of dollars a year, the opportunities for even marginal gains such as this are huge. Digital transformation, however, promises so much more, and working with its partners, SAP is perfectly positioned to realize this potential.

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