At MTU, 300 digitalization projects are underway at the same time
As head of IT at MTU Aero Engines, Dr. Pamela Herget-Wehlitz oversees digital transformation at the company.
05.2018 | Text: Thorsten Rienth
Thorsten Rienth writes as a freelance journalist for AEROREPORT. In addition to the aerospace industry, his technical writing focuses on rail traffic and the transportation industry.
Dr. Herget-Wehlitz, MTU is driving forward digitalization at the company with its Digital Transformation Program. That’s a fairly abstract title—what exactly does it mean?
Over the past few years, we have devoted a substantial amount of attention to digitalization as it relates to our core products. In that time, our focus has expanded considerably. We are currently driving digitalization forward with 300 individual projects across the company. And our scope is poised to grow even larger in the future—spanning departments, divisions, even multiple locations. In short, we aim to move more towards an end-to-end approach. Digitalization can generate truly comprehensive added value only when we take a holistic perspective. We launched the Digital Transformation Program to coordinate our efforts in this area.
Dr. Pamela Herget-Wehlitz
Yet even in the digital age, aircraft will still be powered by real engines.
That’s true—and it’s actually very good news: digitalization won’t make our business superfluous. Even in the future, there won’t be any way around using real engines. However, the development and production of these engines is shifting more and more to the digital world. We’re already using comprehensive simulations along the entire process chain, but there is still enormous potential to go further. Basically, it’s about making our business processes faster and more efficient—for example, significantly speeding up the time it takes to design, develop and manufacture an engine and then bring it to market.
What does this look like in practice?
One way is by using digital models and sometimes computers to simulate costly and time-intensive experimental apparatus, expensive validation tests and material development. Or by ensuring geometric uniformity for the design models of our engine components, all the way through the production phase. Naturally, the “digital twin” is a major topic; we want to use it to consolidate the digitally available information about our products throughout their entire lifecycles. That’s why we’re working to integrate this data into a cutting-edge, high-performance data backbone.
This all sounds like it will have huge effects on what were already complex process chains.
We’re certainly not the only ones who are driving digitalization forward; it’s a major topic for our suppliers, customers and partners, too. At MTU, we are in the process of creating full transparency along the entire value chain. This lets us ensure we deliver on time while minimizing inventories and mapping the progress of a product at any point along its path. Our objective is nothing less than the broad networking of our systems with suppliers and customers. As a result, we will be able to evaluate disruptions in the supply chain in real time and develop optimum countermeasures. We’re also working on machine-learning algorithms that function as KPI-based assistance systems, and thus can give advance warning of bottlenecks and unusual incidents. And while all this is going on, digitalization is also changing our administrative departments—for instance, through robotic process automation and blended learning.
The Digital Transformation Program is sure to require additional employees. What qualifications show that an applicant is a good fit for these projects?
They of course need to be aware of things outside their own field of expertise, and ideally should have a healthy amount of curiosity. In addition, it’s important that they have the courage to challenge current processes and future tools and think about them critically. Digitalization is not an end in itself—it should always serve to create genuine added value and help us and our products make measurable progress.