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An interview with Gary Hilton, Chief Technical Integration Lead, Boeing (Internet of Business)

An interview with Gary Hilton, Chief Technical Integration Lead, Boeing (Internet of Business)

  • According to Gary Hilton, Chief Technical Integration Lead at Boeing, AI & Machine Learning, real time industrial factory networks, Discrete Event Simulation Models, and Factory Digital Twins are among the key technologies that will transform the industry over the next two years.
  • The key challenges he sees within AI are focused on data collection, as companies generally only capture a mere fraction of the available data to form data blocks for production use. Changing this may require full factory network upgrades alongside new data collection strategies to harness the full benefits of AI.
  • Boeing is currently working on a factory digital twin for Boeing Sheffield, as well as a digital tooling supply chain that includes a tooling digital twin.

Analysis & Comments

  • Boeing is one of a few companies within the aviation industry that have adopted digital twin technology within their manufacturing process. The company first embraced this concept in an internal letter titled Innovation Quarterly, where it described how it is using model-based engineering (digital twins), to design the air data reference function for the 777X.
  • According to the CEO, Boeing is “moving to model-based engineering” and digitizing its “entire engineering and development system up front including down into our supply chain and connecting that with the production system and how we service and support to create value for our customers. That digital life cycle — think of it as a digital twin of our airplanes — will unleash incredible value in the future.”
  • The Sheffield project mentioned above refers to a 6,200SQM, GBP40m facility the company opened in October last year which is Boeing’s first-ever European manufacturing plant and will be used to manufacture over 100 different high-tech actuation components for the 737 and 767 planes.
  • The factory is the result of its longstanding relationship with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which the company co-founded with the University of Sheffield in 2001.
  • As part of this initiative, Boeing has initiated a major new “smart factory” research programme with the AMRC that focuses on developing new manufacturing techniques for the factory and has resulted in the creation of a virtual simulation model of the factory.
  • According to Gary Hilton, going forward this simulation model “will give us the ability to link the virtual simulation to the workshop floor to establish a digital twin for Boeing Sheffield. This will enable us to discern in real-time how processes within the facility are operating and monitor the workshop floor for any issues that are occurring, or plan resources around future targets

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