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

Text:
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.

Video: MTU 4.0 Article with video

MTU 4.0

Simulation, flexible connected means of production, intelligent machine controls, and digital technologies are revolutionizing engine maintenance. To the video ...

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.

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