EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: Abdallah Touhami, Accenture’s Aerospace and Defense Lead for the Middle East
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How has the pandemic impacted technology adoption by the aviation industry in the Middle East?
The pandemic has led to the adoption of advanced technologies in the travel and aviation industry in order to overcome the impact of the pandemic, facilitate journeys and help revive the industry.
Some of the new technologies that have been implemented in different airports and airlines across the world have played a key role in helping the industry adapt to the post-pandemic situation. These include touchless technologies, facial recognition border gates, thermal scanning cameras, disinfection unmanned vehicles, sanitization gates, and more. Digital health passports, some of which have been launched and others are now being tested in several airports, can be a potential breakthrough for the aviation industry.
Aviation executives are also investing in digital collaboration tools and cloud-enabled technologies to support their remote workforces. New technology is also being applied to areas like the supply chain, to make it smarter and more agile.
Have industry players been quick to adapt technology to cater to the changing needs in the aerospace market?
Aerospace and defense companies face a once-in-a-generation chance to shape their future from the ground up as they navigate through recovery. And they are cashing in on this opportunity.
Accenture's Aerospace and Defense Technology Vision 2021 found 89% of executives say employees face the largest and fastest change in history. Aerospace and defense companies are no longer just competing for market share; they're competing in new markets to build their vision of the future faster than the competition.
IT systems architecture is set to be the next frontier in the competition between aerospace and defense companies. But building the most competitive technology stack means thinking about technology differently. In this new era, the lines between business and technology strategies have started to blur.
As a result, the most dynamic, sustainable and competitive technology stacks have started to empower aerospace and defense companies to tap into the full spectrum of technology capabilities. The aim is to build unique solutions for current markets while equipping businesses to move into new markets, such as commercial space and urban air mobility. A rise is in the offing in paperless maintenance, virtual inspections, predictive analytics and AR/VR solutions.
Aerospace and defense companies are accelerating their digital transformations at a faster pace than those in other industries. These companies are creating intelligent living models of factories, supply chains, product lifecycles and more. They are bringing together data and intelligence to represent more of the physical world in digital spaces. As a result, there's a significant competitive advantage up for grabs. In addition, intelligent twins have powerful simulation capabilities that remove barriers to innovation. They are, essentially, a risk-free playground to explore new ideas, strategize for many possible futures, and explore limitless "what-if" scenarios. So as aerospace and defense companies transform, they can explore a wealth of new opportunities, markets and ways of doing business.
Finally, a company's ability to master change ahead will be critical, with today's technology decisions heavily influencing future performance. As a result, success will depend on their ability to accelerate and master change in all parts of their business, which will directly function the technology decisions they make today.
In which areas and geographies do you see the strongest potential for growth?
We predict that global commercial aerospace revenues will increase 9% YoY in 2021 as the impacts of COVID-19 ease and airline travel resumes, but even that lift would leave the global industry down 15% vs. 2019.
The Asia-Pacific market is expected to grow in 2021 compared to 2019 levels, exhibiting a much faster recovery than North America or Europe, each of which faces double-digit declines vs. 2019 levels.
What technologies do you predict will impact the aerospace industry most in the next five years?
Technology leadership shouldn't be confined to the CIO or CTO alone. Instead, the entire C-suite and broader organization must embrace a digital-first approach. To drive this transformation, aerospace and defense companies must navigate these five key trends.
• Trend #1 Stack Strategically: IT systems architecture will be the next frontier in the competition between aerospace and defense companies. But building the most competitive technology stack means thinking about technology differently. In this new era, the lines between business and technology strategies will blur.
• Trend # 2 Mirrored World: Leading aerospace and defense companies are creating intelligent living models of factories, supply chains, product lifecycles and more. They are bringing together data and intelligence to represent more of the physical world in digital spaces. Intelligent twins have powerful simulation capabilities that remove barriers to innovation. In addition, digital twins allow for preventative maintenance, minimizing aircraft downtime and substantially increasing environmental performance. Reducing "reactive maintenance" reduces costs, but it also reduces the energy and materials required for repairs. As aerospace and defense companies transform, they can explore a wealth of new opportunities, markets and ways of doing business.
• Trend # 3 Democratization of Technology:Democratized technology empowers every employee to be an innovator. Companies can add a grassroots layer to their innovation strategies by putting powerful technology at employees' fingertips.
• Trend # 4 Anywhere, Everywhere:2020 saw the biggest workforce transformation in living memory. Aerospace and defense companies pivoted to enable many of their people to work from home and invest in technology to keep them productive. The trend is here to stay.
• Trend # 5 From Me to We:as aerospace and defense companies reaffirm their existing partnerships and forge new ones, they are eager to underpin these relationships with a resilient, adaptable, and trustworthy foundation. As a result, many will turn to multiparty systems such as blockchain, Digital Twin and other technologies.
Technology is not just about digital transformation. It’s also the enabler of a more sustainable agenda. Take blockchain for example, VeriTx created a digital supply chain solution for aircraft parts using blockchain technology, allowing customers like the US Department of Defense to reduce waste by 90% and simultaneously achieve 30% in cost savings.
Technology solutions can also be deployed to streamline procurement processes and optimize the material flow. For example, Airbus utilizes a joint collaboration platform Airsupply from SupplyOn, along with several suppliers connecting their inventory management system, resulting in optimizing material flow and saving it over 357 million kilometers of transport.
Coordinated, strategic ecosystem partnerships will enable aerospace and defense companies to address today's disruptions and be better prepared to weather new ones.
What are your expectations from Dubai Airshow 2021 - which will be the first of its kind event since the coronavirus outbreak?
Since Dubai Airshow 2021 is the first in-person event in a long time, we are sure it will offer a fantastic platform for doing business, discussions with key global aerospace and defense leaders, understanding the key trends and emerging technologies.
Dubai Airshow 2021 will also serve as a platform to showcase the role of cutting-edge technologies that will bolster the recovery of the aviation industry following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on those sectors.
Aerospace companies worldwide will launch and exhibit their latest technologies and innovations, which will help promote the sector's growth in the region and the world.
The Airshow is expected to complement the dominant themes of Expo 2020 Dubai, with which it will coincide. Mobility, Sustainability, and Opportunity – these three themes will help make Expo 2020 Dubai the World's Greatest Show. They are also set to dominate the aviation industry in the future.
The Expo will add weight to the Airshow. The surge of visitors to the Expo, coupled with the world's focus on recovery, will lead to increased opportunities for the aviation industry, which will need to focus on new ideas, innovation and higher customer expectations. The Dubai Airshow 2021 is about all of these.
What are Accenture's plans in the region?
Accenture has made significant investments in the GCC and is constantly striving to help businesses accelerate digital transformation. In line with the UAE Vision 2021 and Saudi Vision 2039, Accenture maintains its support to private and government businesses to further enable the region in becoming a leading technology hub, by helping establishments and governments apply technology to create positive change and transform business and society.
In the UAE for example, we are the proud sponsor of the Dubai Airshow 2021 and we also sponsored the Global Aerospace Summit and the Resilience Strategy Forum last year. The Dubai Airshow has significant importance as a meeting point for aerospace professionals to conduct business and accelerate from recovery to growth. Now in it's 17th edition, it allows aerospace professionals to witness the most innovative products and solutions alongside a host of exciting features and thought-leadership conferences.
Accenture is also the Official Digital Services Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai, which means we're working to help realize the best visitor experience possible. From creating the digital channels and tools for Expo's participants and visitors to delivering the backend systems on-site through to advanced future technologies, our goal is to offer hyper-relevant, personalized visitor journeys for every one of 25 million visits to Expo 2020 Dubai.
As the world gathers in Dubai, we're helping to ensure the seamless design, development, and integration of Expo 2020's digital services and systems to operate on one platform. It's something we have the experience, skills, and track record to execute having operated as Global Systems Integration Partner for Expo Milano 2015.
With Expo 2020 Dubai, we share a common goal of joining businesses, systems, and people in a way that builds a sustainable future in which everyone can prosper.
We harness innovative technologies to support the government and private-sector stakeholders in bringing tailored and new concepts and features to the region. Since tourism development is a priority on national agendas across the Gulf Cooperation Council region, we launched our first Tourism Innovation Hub in Dubai. Through the Innovation Hub, we will create sustainable and valuable opportunities for business transformation in the tourism sector here in the UAE and across the wider region.