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Top 5 Quality Management Issues in the Aerospace and Defense Industry

Written by: Michael Rapaport

Top 5 Quality Management Issues in the Aerospace and Defense Industry

All industries face overlapping challenges in today’s business environment. Some industries, such as aerospace and defense, that must use modern technology solutions along with machines and other fixed assets, tend to face greater demands from multiple stakeholders.

For example, the post-9/11 aerospace industry must balance heightened security measures, regulatory compliance, continual equipment upkeep, and the increasing consumer demand for air travel all the while keeping their passengers and employees safe.

The same is true for the defense industry as international treaties and rules of warfare, along with public pressure, severely limit the who, what, where, when, why, and how of their operations. They, too, possess massive amounts of machinery that need to be maintained, safely stored, and periodically replaced, along with facing the constant threat of technological innovation falling into the wrong hands.

Below, we explored some of the top challenges faced by the aerospace and defense industry.

Supply Chain Management

Managing a global supplier network can often appear to be a dark tangled web of risk, quality, and logistics management. In today’s competitive marketplace, supply chains for aerospace and defense companies often span multiple countries and suppliers. As these companies increasingly outsource production parts, the manufacturing process will then become more and more complex.

It can be challenging for sourcing experts, buyers, and supply chain leaders within the aerospace and defense industry to effectively manage the performance of their supplier network. However, digitizing all facets of supplier management, like being able to track exactly where a piece of equipment is and who has it, is a positive step in the right direction.

Emerging Quality Management Technologies

As companies increasingly embrace digital systems, finding the right solution is another one of the aerospace engineering problems faced in the industry today. It’s important to find systems with an IT infrastructure that can handle high traffic volumes. Additionally, all resources need a digital footprint, so they can be continuously monitored and analyzed, such as digital signatures at the point of entry (for shipping parts or other machinery between suppliers and to the end customer) and gathering and storing sensory data from shipping containers.

In addition to choosing the right solution, the implementation of these systems can be challenging for IT departments. Poorly implemented systems can lock in inefficiencies resulting in a lower-than-desired ROI. As new technologies arise, it can also be challenging to keep up with the continuous upgrades associated with these systems when your infrastructure isn’t centrally hosted.

Cybersecurity

Data breaches, such as private passenger information or the location of dangerous machinery, are a serious concern. Millions of data records are lost or stolen each day. The increase in digitization, as previously discussed, is connected to a sharp uptick in the risk of data breaches occurring.

“Combatant” AI algorithms, for example, can be leveraged to breach those systems and wreak havoc. Thus, the aerospace and defense industry has an added level of constant cybersecurity vigilance that can be challenging as technology demands increase.

Aging Workforce

Looking down the road, the aerospace and defense industry will soon have to accommodate an aging workforce. According to the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), “A highly skilled and robust workforce is essential to our national security and economic prosperity. Yet today the industry faces impending retirements and a shortage of trained technical graduates, which is a situation that is forecasted to worsen within the decade.”

As the skills gap widens and the labor market tightens, it will be challenging for companies to recruit qualified talent. Fortunately, technology like robotics, AI, and software systems, are helping to supplement an aging workforce. But will these advancements be enough to support the demands of the aerospace and defense industry?

Cost of Quality

The aerospace and defense industry has long faced the issue of profitability. According to Deloitte, the global aerospace and defense industry revenue growth has been on a downward spiral, further decelerating from 2.7 percent to 1.7 percent from 2016 to 2017, while spending increased by 3.9 percent. As you may incur from many of the challenges listed above, the cost of quality is another one of the problems aerospace engineers face.

The cost of supply chain management, cybersecurity, technology, and talent acquisition can weigh heavily on budgets for many companies. For example, as new technologies arise, investing, implementing, and upgrading software systems can often be a costly and time-consuming project. Even talent acquisition can be projected to cost an average of $4,000 per hire for companies based in the United States alone.

Solution to Combat Quality Management Issues

Fortunately, the aerospace and defense industry can alleviate many of these challenges with the right quality management system. A robust enterprise quality management software (EQMS) can help aerospace and defense companies improve quality control by automating tasks to supplement worker shortages, providing secure solutions to ensure sensitive data and content doesn’t fall into malicious hands, and managing supplier communications all in one central location.

With a hosted EQMS solution like IQS, companies can ensure software applications are up-to-date and that providers and suppliers are always using the same version. Additionally, IQS can provide the implementation services and software training to ensure successful aerospace quality management. Contact IQS today to learn more or request a demo of our EQMS software.

Best Practices for Managing Supplier Performance_IQS

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