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by Forrest Burnson,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: August 27, 2015


Four types of customers comprise the market for aerospace manufacturers: defense, civilian aviation, government space technology and civilian space technology. Often used as the primary example of precision engineering, the industry is now under financial pressure. For a firm to assure continued success, it must focus on three things: shortening the time to move a product from development to production, increasing the efficiency of the supply chain and increasing efficiency of the production process.

A main area for concern is import/export restrictions. For example, some products from aerospace manufactures must conform with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). And items on the United States Munitions List (USML) require a Department of State export license—while products for the Department of Defense (DoD) must meet military specifications. Products destined for space must also be specially qualified. Aerospace manufacturers must comply with the EPA’s National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Aerospace Manufacturing and Rework Facilities.

There are many critical components in an aerospace manufacturer’s software suite, such as: inventory, manufacturing planning and scheduling, order entry and fulfillment. Customer relationship management (CRM) is also key, specifically for those dealing with producing and shipping items that are restricted. Payroll and personnel modules have requirements to track which employees work on what products and help maintain current information on employees’ security clearances. Accounts payable and general ledger are standard. Many aerospace manufacturers, and in particular those that are units of larger firms, use enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. In this industry, cloud-based, software-as-a-service software systems are uncommon because of security concerns, but are increasingly common in smaller firms that do not manufacture restricted products.

Common Features of Aerospace Manufacturing Software

In evaluating software, aerospace manufacturers should consider the following functions to meet their unique requirements:

Supply chain management Aerospace manufacturers need transparency into suppliers’ systems. Order status, supplier inventory, current pricing, order entry and payment can all be integrated between supplier and manufacturer.
Integrated design and production Design systems should identify off-the-shelf parts and generate bills of materials once the design is complete. Advanced systems will introduce costing models into the design process so that revisions will automatically update projected cost of production.
ITAR compliance and USML The system should produce all reports required for ITAR compliance. Advanced systems will automatically notify if a customer attempts to order a restricted item. System should identify which products are subject to State Department registration fees.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) compliance The system should support the process for applying for FAA certification. It should also produce compliance reports for production runs as necessary.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) registration Any electronic device sold in the United States that emits radio frequency interference (RFI) must be registered with the FCC. The system should produce the information required to complete the registration process and provide updates if the design changes.
Scrap management There are two parts to scrap tracking. First is minimizing the amount of scrap by laying out job to make the most efficient use of material. The second is tracking recyclable scrap through to resale to the scrap yard.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliance Aerospace manufacturers are specifically addressed by NESHAP. The system should prepare all EPA compliance reports.
Security If the manufacturer produces restricted items, information about the products, processing and materials should be restricted to authorized personnel. Information should be encrypted.
Personnel management The system should track which employees are eligible to work on which projects. It should also track current status for each employee, including security clearance and, if applicable, H1-B visa status.
Subcomponent management Teams or subcontractors making subcomponents may not know the nature of the final product. The system should enable authorized workers to access required information but nothing about other subcomponents or the final product. It must also support high-level managers in tracking overall progress on each project.
Materials tracking Department of Defense specifications require that all components for each product be documented throughout the entire lifecycle. The system should identify every item from inventory through assembly to final delivery.
Recall management The system should support product recalls by identifying which runs are affected and which customers received them.
Engineering change management The system should track engineering changes and their impact on manufacturing time and cost-per-unit. It should also be easy to enter the changes into the system so that the changes can flow to other products and the overall production schedule.

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