A single damaged fan blade on a Southwest Airlines aircraft caused a fatal accident last month on April 17. Although the airline company claimed they didn’t find cracking or damage on 8,000 inspected fan blades following the accident, this most recent incident is the second in less than two years involving a fan blade that broke mid-flight on a Southwest Airlines craft with CFM56-7B engines.
As aerospace suppliers consider utilizing blockchain technology to safeguard and streamline supply chain tracking, incidents like what happened last month could be prevented.
Blockchain Technology Basics
Best known as the technology that operates Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, a blockchain (or “block chain” as it used to be known) is a decentralized, incorruptible ledger that can be programmed to record anything. Each block usually contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and the transaction data. Inherently resistant to modification, these blocks of data become chains of chronological data that can easily be traced back to the initial transaction.
You can also look at a blockchain as the undisputed source of truth for all transactions, including supply chains and individual part manufacturing. This degree of accountability could become a limitless strength in the aerospace industry if used by all suppliers for the benefit of future aircraft maintenance.
Applied Directly to the Aerospace Industry
As evinced by the April 17 incident, the aerospace industry faces a great challenge of keeping track of tens of thousands of parts that make up each aircraft. Beyond improving safety measures and accident prevention, establishing an incorruptible supply chain tracking system would also provide operational and cost benefits to suppliers, manufacturers, and airlines. Aerospace suppliers are looking at integrating blockchain technology for several reasons:
Increased Transparency – One of the salient benefits of blockchain technology is that every party involved with a component adds to the same immutable record. This objective documentation system would allow for a more tailored and thorough maintenance process with every part and final product.
Supply Chain Tracking – Blockchain technology could benefit the entire aerospace supply chain. Because of the shared database that blockchain provides it would be easier for suppliers to track quality and meet compliance for products and components from manufacturing to implementation.
Reduced Costs – Each transaction blockchain technology creates records exchanges between those involved, from suppliers to airlines personnel. This helps increase efficiency and greatly reduces costs, streamlining the overall procurement process.
Already in Motion
One company, in particular, is already making blockchain technology available to aerospace suppliers. Moog, a U.S. manufacturer of flight control systems, is working with partners to create a blockchain-based solution called VeriPart. VeriPart will be initially used to track 3D printed components but Moog seems to have intentions for widening the technology’s applications as they develop the system.
The implications of blockchain technology for the aerospace supply industry are exciting, if not still uncertain. Continue to check in with etaGLOBAL for updates and questions regarding this evolving technology. For more info, contact us today