Printed headline: Decoding the Difference
Last year, I spoke at an event in Miami on the emergence of “big data” in the global aerospace market.
To break the ice during my panel on the implications of advancing technologies, I admitted that my real reason for participating was to figure out what the heck “big data” meant.
“I came here as much to learn as to share,” I quoted myself as saying (insider trick) in the piece I wrote about the event for ARSA’s website. “We read all the time in the trade press about well-hyped developments like ‘big data,’ but for most of the industry, these enhancements feel more like myth than reality. I came here to try and decode that difference.”
Industry professionals or observers may get spun up about new software or analytical tools (big data, predictive maintenance, AI, blockchain, the Internet of Things, remote connectivity), flight platforms (UAS, “boomless” supersonic aircraft) or aerospace structures and systems (biofuel, hybrid-electric powerplants, composite structures). The hype is particularly effective in technology-driven industries. However, we must evaluate the actual market for such innovations.
Looking at ARSA’s membership, reflected in its annual market report and FAA rulemaking activities, the vast majority (80%) of aviation maintenance entities are small-to-medium-sized enterprises. The “big” businesses represent most of the industry’s employees and the lion’s share of its revenue, making that 20% a more likely market for “big data” than the average much smaller maintenance organization.
Why does this matter? Advancing technology brings opportunity, but also risk. Up-front capital expenditures and practical learning curves can stretch out the time between the decision to institute a new system and the financial benefit of doing so. A small-business-dominated industry doesn’t necessarily have the opportunity or perspective to absorb that risk.
How do you manage the hype?
- Analyze the messenger. Who is “pushing” or celebrating a new advancement? Be the expert in your own business and its needs when you’re pitched with any opportunities. Be patient but wary of entrepreneurial suppliers with nonaviation know-how but no practical industry experience.
- Assess the market. What “network” of businesses is investing? Your company’s need for the product will depend on how “close to home” the potential competitive advantages fall.
- Embrace alternatives. Can the same goals be served in other ways? If you can prevent aircraft-on-ground or reduce no-fault-found removals without being an early adopter of advanced technology, you buy time to allow the market to mature.
How does your business “decode the difference” between technology advancement myth and reality? What experiences have you had? How do you quiet the “hype” and focus on benefits? I’d like to learn. Send me an email and share.
Brett Levanto is vice president of operations of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein, managing communications for regulatory and legislative policy initiatives. He provides strategic and logistical support for the Aeronautical Repair Station -Association.
The views expressed are not necessarily shared by Aviation Week.