Digital transformation positions Aish Technologies to target £multi-billion national shipbuilding initiative

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A leading supplier to the defence sector has completed a major digital transformation project that provides the agility needed to be a contender for new business resulting from the Government’s current national shipbuilding effort.

Aish Technologies, which manufacturers equipment that houses the electronics used in the command-and-control systems of warships and submarines, has embarked on its digital transformation journey with the support of Root Solutions, the longest standing PTC® Platinum Partner in the UK.

The latest digital solutions have been implemented to ensure Aish achieves greater flexibility to meet customisation needs, agility in production and improved supply chain management.

The Poole-based company has implemented a new digital platform that replaces several spreadsheets and legacy systems that were time-consuming to use and difficult to manage effectively.

Based on the ‘digital thread’ concept, the software used creates a continuous, seamless strand of data that connects each stage of the product’s lifecycle, from design through to manufacture and onwards to modification, maintenance and repair.

The journey has been led by Aish Technologies’ UK Engineering Director Aleesha Mitchell, who herself served in the Royal Navy for 13 years as a Weapon Engineer Officer.

“Our highly bespoke products are built in extremely limited production runs to fit the specifications of individual ships, so for obvious reasons, they must meet unequivocally high-quality standards.”

She continued: “They must be delivered reliably and on time to meet the demanding schedules of our immediate customers – defence contractors such as BAE Systems, Thales and MBDA, who build the systems that our equipment is an integral part of.

“And finally, the design and manufacture of this equipment must be able to adapt quickly and smoothly, in line with tech refresh cycles.”

Aish uses PTC Creo® to create mechanical data, and Zuken, for electrical/electronic data. The two systems are tightly integrated and feed directly into PTC Windchill® to manage the lifecycle of the products.

The PLM solution keeps accurate records of every component and part that makes up each individual product – effectively creating a ‘digital twin’ of that product.

“What Windchill does for us is ensure that documentation and data is kept in one place, so that we absolutely understand the bill of materials, we know where the model is, we can see when an engineering change has been captured – there’s no room for error there,” said Aleesha.

“Finally, using Internet of Things (IoT) platform PTC ThingWorx®, that digital twin can be presented to manufacturing employees via a kiosk on the shop floor, giving them complete, accurate instructions as to how products should be built.

“They can see the 3D model in detail, expand it, investigate a certain area, and see what they need to do next, step-by-step. The manufacturing team has really embraced that concept and we used it to great effect on one of our recent projects, which has strategic importance for the UK.”

Michael Bird, Technical Director at Root Solutions, added: “Agility is important, not just in ensuring that Aish can respond quickly to the needs of its defence-contractor clients, but also in weathering fluctuating market demands.

“In the defence industry, revenues for suppliers tend to ebb and flow in response to budgetary cuts or government investment. Agility means Aleesha and the team are always ready when new projects and programmes are put into place.”

Elliot Clarke, UKi Regional Director at PTC, concluded: “Root Solutions’ work to support Aish Technology on its digital journey has positioned the business to successfully tackle international markets. It’s an exciting time and we are proud that the collaboration is supporting the company’s global growth.”