Who are the top supply chain innovators in aerospace and defence?

10 mins

The pace of innovation in aerospace and defence is hypersonic, with 174,000 patents granted ...

Mane Aerospace Team

By Mane Aerospace Team

The pace of innovation in aerospace and defence is hypersonic, with 174,000 patents granted in the past three years.

But the progress of an innovation isn’t linear. It’s an S-curve–starting slow at the beginning, rising fast in the middle, and slowing down again at the end. These three stages divide innovations into three very different groups:

  1. Emerging innovations are still taxiing along the runway, slowly gathering early adopters. A few to watch right now are aerodynamic guidance systems for missiles, bonded fibre laminates, and visual landing aids.
  2. Accelerating innovations have achieved liftoff and are rapidly gaining popularity. They currently include ultrasonic inspection for aircraft, fuselage riveting, and centrifugal fan impellers.
  3. Mature innovations are levelling off as they start to become established–for example, blade alloy welding, gas turbine fuel injectors, and anti-ballistic clothing fibres.

Knowing which stage an innovation has reached is crucial to understanding its current and future levels of adoption and impact.

A key area of innovation in both aerospace and defence is supply chain management systems. Recent global events have highlighted the need to adapt and secure supply chains, and have driven startups, tech manufacturers, and major players alike to start innovating.


Top 10 innovators in supply chain management systems

Ranked by number of patents from 2010 to 2021, FedEx is quantum leaps ahead of the rest, with twice as many patents as Alphabet, which itself has four times as many as Deutsche Post.

  1. FedEx: 195
  2. Alphabet: 96
  3. Deutsche Post: 24
  4. Amazon.com: 15
  5. Honda Motor: 15
  6. Ford Motor: 13
  7. Boeing: 11
  8. Here: 9
  9. Continental: 8
  10. Autonomous Solutions: 7

However, Alphabet takes the top spot for both geographic reach (number of countries where each patent is registered) and application diversity (number of different applications for each patent), making it both the most global and the most diversified innovator of the bunch.

Second and third place for application diversity go to NEC and Continental, and for geographic reach to SZ DJI Technology and Nuro, which is repurposing data-crunching software from its driverless delivery vehicles to drive better procedural decisions in supply chain processes.

While almost every industry has been forced to rethink its supply chain management, the unique complexity of supply chains in aerospace and defence looks set to remain a catalyst for intense innovation for years to come.

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