Ian Sheppard/LONDON

A collaborative project in concurrent engineering, involving some of Europe's leading aerospace companies, is about to expand into the global arena.

The Advanced Information Technology (AIT) project is a wide-ranging attempt to combat the burgeoning costs of information technology (IT) and to work with major vendors of design and manufacturing software-support tools, encouraging them to integrate end users into their product specification and development processes.

A total of 90 organisations is involved in research projects, with a core of 17 European aerospace and automotive companies, including Aerospatiale, Alenia, British Aerospace and Daimler-Benz Aerospace.

Project manager Jonathan Waite believes that a decision will be made "in the next few weeks", which will bring industry in Australia, Canada and Japan into the grouping, while Lockheed Martin is already involved through the Joint Strike Fighter programme.

"End users are frustrated with software vendors," Waite says. It is estimated that as much money is paid out on installation, training and support of such products as is spent on purchasing them.

A report on the group's activities is being prepared for an open forum at the end of November. Waite sees a global, independent, AIT standards body being set up to run the Integration Platform (IP), which it is developing as a reference point for quality assurance throughout the software design cycle. The IT industry has shown "strong support", says Waite.

A global supporting standard such as the IP is essential, Waite believes. Daimler-Benz, for example, is testing a prototype identity unit for trucks, which stores details of building and service history.

Extending this to aircraft and adding real-time maintenance support, where the manufacturer can tap straight into the identity-unit remotely and work through an interactive digital mock-up, is the logical next step and could revolutionise customer support. "The IP could evolve into an industry-standard, real-time, 'plug-and-play' digital databus," says Waite.

Source: Flight International