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Boeing Wants to Build its Next Aircraft in the Metaverse.


In the Boeing company’s aircraft “factory of the future” (as they call it), 3D engineering designs work with robots that talk to each other. At the same time, aircraft mechanics around the world will be linked in through Microsoft headsets that provide a mixed reality experience.

The Boeing plan aims to unite design, production, and airline services operations under a single, digital manufacturing system. The company says installation will be in the next two years.

Boeing has recurrently expressed its goal of a digital revolution, but critics and other analysts say the company’s efforts toward the goal have had mixed results. Industry observers say the goals of improving quality and safety have grown more important as the company faces several threats.


The airplane maker is trying to regain the trust of travellers after the 737 MAX incident. That plane that was grounded for more than two years after two crashes blamed on electrical problems. The company says it is starting a future aircraft program over the next 10 years that will cost about $15 billion.


The company also aims to prevent future manufacturing issues like the structural problems that affected the 787 Dreamliner. “It’s about strengthening engineering,” Boeing’s chief engineer, Greg Hyslop, told Reuters. “We are talking about changing the way we work across the entire company.” After years of drastic changes in the industry’s market, the demand for new airplanes has heightened the competition between Boeing and Europe’s Airbus. Now, their battle moves into factory operations.


Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury is a former automobile research executive. He has released a statement promising to “invent new production systems and leverage the power of data” to move its industrial system into the 21st century.

Boeing’s digital improvement has been marked by progress within certain airplane programs or tools. It has not undergone a total, digital remodel like the kind Hyslop is initiating.



A new route


The airplane manufacturers are not alone in their goal to enter the so-called metaverse, a shared digital space that employs virtual reality technology. Automakers like Ford, social media companies like Facebook owner Meta Platforms and other businesses are making similar moves. Boeing wants development of its next aircraft to include a link to a three-dimensional digital model of the new plane. It also wants the production system to be able to run simulations. These digital models are backed by a “digital thread” that collects every piece of information about the aircraft starting on its first day of development. This includes airline requirements records, millions of equipment parts, thousands of pages of official approvals, and more.



Taking advantage of the new


Ending outdated methods, like designing on paper, could bring powerful change.

More than 70 percent of quality issues at Boeing have something to do with design, Hyslop said. Boeing believes digital tools will be important to bringing a new aircraft to market in as little as four or five years.

“You will get speed, you will get improved quality, better communication,” Hyslop said.


Enormous challenge


The Boeing plan is no easy feat.

Automotive experts point to technical problems on two of Boeing’s military training aircraft. Both were developed using digital systems.

Boeing has been too concerned about shareholder returns, says Richard Aboulafia, an expert with the Teal Group. He said the company’s engineering expertise has been hurt as a result. The company continues to cut spending on research, he added.

Large companies like aircraft parts maker Spirit AeroSystems have already invested in digital technology. But hundreds of smaller suppliers around the world do not have the money or skilled labor to make important, digital changes to their manufacturing systems.

Industry experts say Boeing has come to realize that digital technology alone will not be enough. They say the company also must make organizational and cultural changes.

What are your thoughts? Share your insights in the comments below!



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