Global Trends in Aerospace Manufacturing and Software

Global Trends in Aerospace Manufacturing and Software

11 Aug 2022

This informal CPD article Global Trends in Aerospace Manufacturing and Software was provided by Cambashi, a leading global industry analyst & consulting firm.

Research for Cambashi’s ‘Insights’, combined with data from our software and employment ‘Observatories’, shows that the aerospace manufacturing industry has stood up well through the COVID-19 pandemic and is already returning to pre-pandemic levels or better.

This is partly due to the defense sector, which has been relatively unaffected, and partly because of the space industry, which is a thriving sub-set. Both areas have advanced products with complex supply chains that require sophisticated design/engineering/manufacturing software.

Performance of the Aerospace manufacturing sector after the COVID-19 pandemic

Despite the devastation of the airline industry by COVID-19, the aerospace manufacturing sector has held up well. One reason is that defence programs and the space industry make up a large proportion of this industry and – being government-funded – were relatively unaffected. Another is that commercial aerospace programs are planned with long horizons.

The overall value of the aerospace industry in 2021 was estimated to be more than $US600 billion. The largest player, the US, dropped in value from $US280bn in 2019 to $US220bn in 2020. However, a figure of $US290bn is projected for 2022 surpassing pre-pandemic levels, largely driven by government stimulus, the vaccination program, earlier release from lockdown in many states, and gradual increases in commercial air travel.

As the industry recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, the shape of the aerospace market is changing; players are entering different areas of the supply chain, especially in the aftermarket business – an area where Tier 1 (T1) companies have seen great success over the years. One of the most lucrative aftermarket areas is the engine, specifically the high-pressure turbine, which often requires the most maintenance, and where non-OEM replacement parts cannot be used because of safety risks. OEMs such as Boeing and Airbus are now entering the T1 aftermarket business.

Understand the Software in Aerospace manufacturing

Software plays a major role in this industry as it is essential to design, simulation, production, supply chain, and maintenance activities. The full range of software used includes:

  • CAD for design
  • CAM for manufacturing planning
  • CAE for simulation
  • PLM to manage the product lifecycle
  • ERP to manage the production/planning and financial processes
  • SCM (Supply Chain Management) to manage the supply chain; and
  • Service Management software to manage service and maintenance.

The market for ‘technical’ software (PLM, CAM, MCAD and MCAE) used in the aerospace industry globally is dominated by the US, with nearly $US1billion of 2021 sales, followed by France with $US210 million, Germany with $US120 million, and the UK with $US70 million. The US technical software market continues to grow steadily despite the pandemic, showing the importance and resilience of this software market.

Technical software used in aerospace

The Digital Twin Effect and CAE

Digital Twins match digital models to physical entities that can range from a single component to an entire aircraft. This is particularly useful when simulating aerodynamic performance using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to improve the surface flow, and when using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to stress-test candidate designs. Virtual modelling of geometry and behaviour (i.e. simulation) combined with real-time data about the physical product enables a Digital Twin to be created.

Wind tunnels and fatigue testing rigs will still be used (as they have been in the past), but Digital Twins make it possible to perform many more design iterations and stress tests prior to building and testing prototypes; they can also be used to model the final flying aircraft and collect real-time sensor data for analysis to predict potential failures, and the steps to avoid them. Simulation, CFD, and analysis are all CAE software capabilities.

With the Digital Twin approach, maintenance or upgrades can be planned and tested in detail prior to performing the work and all the correct parts can be obtained in advance – this is particularly important in Aircraft on Ground (AOG) situations, when an aircraft is stranded and it is essential that the correct replacement parts are urgently delivered.

 The Digital Twin approach is becoming very important in the post-pandemic era as it enables performance-informed decision making throughout the entire lifecycle of a product or process. Although the aerospace software market growth in most countries dipped in 2020 due to COVID-19 effects, we forecast it to recover to pre-pandemic levels or higher in 2023, with growth rates for the countries shown ranging from 10 to 20%. We forecast overall growth to continue with a CAGR of roughly 10% from 2019 to 2025.


Even though it is not realistic to expect thousands of people to suddenly become CADCAM or simulation experts, this is an attractive market for visualisation and Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality software (AR/VR) that can provide front line workers (such as on the shop floor and in maintenance positions) with valuable information and training. The main growth in ‘technical’ (design, engineering, and manufacturing) software usage will be in countries with the largest, fastest-growing Aerospace industries, but there is great potential, and some challenges.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Cambashi, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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