Supply-Chain Management is a consistent focal point as the Aerospace industry continuously aims to improve efficiency, and develop new services, but as this area becomes increasingly digitalised, so does the need for related processes for Cybersecurity require enhancement.

This year’s Farnborough International Airshow saw a showcase from Ireland-based Accenture in partnership with French firm Thales of their prototype for application of Distributed Ledger Technology in the form of Blockchain Prototypes for improved supply chain management in a number of areas including ‘Multi-echelon supply chain visibility; Configuration management; Quality; Authenticating supply; Certification of people and machines and Software lifecycle management’ according to Accenture’s dedicated Aerospace and Defense Blockchain portal. All of which are founded on the unique characteristics of Blockchain to enhance cybersecurity, and guarantee authenticity across vast and complex global aerospace supply chains.

Further to improved supply chain management, Accenture and Thales claim their solution will also offer benefits to Vehicle/Component Health Management by enabling the creation of a ‘digital twin’ of the corresponding component which mimics wear and alterations made, which can in turn help inform the demand and provision of aftermarket services, again enhancing the efficiency of the supply chain and supporting the flow of aerospace goods and services on a global scale.

At the EU level, May saw the passing of the deadline for Member States to transpose into Nation law the Directive (EU) 2016/1148 on network and information security (NIS), which aims to improve the security of the Internet and the private networks and information systems by laying down rules on both national frameworks on network and information security and cooperation between competent authorities. However, this directive and related funding such as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) applies mostly to supporting improvements for the provision of essential services and utilities, as opposed industry supply chain management. That being true, the recently agreed EU budget proposes €2bn to invest into the area of ‘Cybersecurity and Trust’ which will have greater focus on supporting industry for innovation and other forms of capacity building.

Meanwhile, the private sector and industry associations such as IATA, AIAA and AIA have already taken steps to support such capacity building with educational courses, online resources and dedicated committees respectively aiming to bring together both information and expertise to help boost aerospace cybersecurity, especially for logistics purposes.

One barrier to the implementation of solutions for cybersecurity in supply chain management, and other supply chain solutions, is their scalability which is an immediate necessity for implementation on even one individual component which can often span several countries and even continents depending on its complexity. One underpinning principle of the EU’s Digital Single Market Strategy – interoperability, also underlines the need for compatibility of digital solutions across geographical, industry and firm divisions for solutions to be viable. Solutions themselves also need to improve, where multiple parties are involved, their needs to be a willingness to share the data necessary for a ‘Smart Contract’, based on Blockchain for example, to be a solid foundation to international transactions and authenticity verifications.

This is a clear issue that needs to be addressed to support the roll-out of supply chain cybersecurity solutions across Europe, and the world, the relevant industries and stakeholder groups such as European Parliament’s Sky and Space Intergroup and CEN-CENELEC may therefore need to more closely cooperate to agree upon appropriate cybersecurity protocols and standards for the Aerospace industry to truly benefit from forthcoming innovations.

With Accenture’s recent report on the use of Blockchain concluding that 86 percent of aerospace and defense companies will adopt the technology within three years, the aerospace industry is clearly active, with supportive regulatory action becoming increasingly important.

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