Rolls-Royce manufactures massive jet engines that are used by airlines and armed forces around the world. The company has enthusiastically embraced Big Data practices, particularly in three key areas of their operations: design, manufacture and after-sales support. In this summary, we look at the design and manufacturing aspects.
How Rolls-Royce uses Big Data in practice
Paul Stein, the company’s chief scientific officer, says: “We have huge clusters of high-power computing which are used in the design process.We generate tens of terabytes of data on each simulation of one of our jet engines.” That design data is then manipulated and visualised to essentially work out whether the design is good or bad, and where improvements might be needed. Eventually, Rolls-Royce hopes to be able to visualise their products in operation in all the potential extremes of behaviour in which they get used.
In addition, the company’s manufacturing systems are increasingly becoming networked and communicating with each other in a move towards an Internet of Things (IoT) industrial environment. As Stein says, the innovation lies in “the automated measurement schemes and the way we monitor our quality control of the components we make.”
In this way, Big Data analytics helps Rolls-Royce improve the design process, decrease product development time and improve the quality and performance of their products – while reducing costs at the same time. The company has also been able to further streamline production processes by eliminating faults during the design process.
The technical details
Rolls-Royce is largely working with internal data, particularly data from sensors fitted to the company’s products and manufacturing equipment. For example, the company is able to generate half a terabyte of manufacturing data on each individual fan blade they produce. As they manufacture 6,000 of those fan blades a year, that’s an incredible three petabytes of data just from the manufacture of one component.
All that data requires a sophisticated storage infrastructure. Rolls-Royce maintains a robust and secure private cloud facility with a proprietary storage approach, as well as a data lake for offline investigations.
Ideas and insights you can steal
Rolls-Royce serves as an inspirational example of an industrial giant transitioning to the new age of data-enabled efficiency – which shows how any company, regardless of its industry, can and should adapt to the data age. And their commitment to Big Data right across the company, from product design to aftercare support, is something that every company should look to emulate. As Stein says of Big Data, “It forms a big part of our present but is going to form an even bigger part of our future.”
You can read more about how Rolls-Royce is using Big Data to drive success in Big Data in Practice: How 45 Successful Companies Used Big Data Analytics to Deliver Extraordinary Results.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.