Leonardo digital electronics factories go live across the UK

29 June 2022
Putting big data at the fingertips of engineers is expected to accelerate product development dramatically

Leonardo has launched a new data-driven approach to design and manufacturing at its electronics sites across the UK, with a new ‘common data environment’ going live, initially at sites in Edinburgh, Luton, Basildon and Southampton. 

The change will speed up development and cut costs, as the company’s scientists and engineers research and build advanced technology such as radars and protective countermeasures for aircraft. By better exploiting the data it collects, Leonardo will be able to get high-tech new equipment into the hands of the UK Armed Forces and its allies faster.

Gareth Hetheridge, UK IT Director at Leonardo said: “For the first time ever, all of our scientists and engineers can look at the same data held in the same place at the same time. It immediately cuts away all those circuitous routes you normally have to go through to access information. We want to free up headspace and time for our people to do what’s really important: think, invent and solve problems.”

The common data environment will also go on to form a cornerstone of Leonardo’s broader programme of digital transformation across its UK-based business.

For the first time, the new approach will securely capture the massive quantities of data being generated across the organisation on a daily basis in one place. Employees will then use a suite of tools, including a new ‘data science workbench’, to make the most of this data to help deliver programmes better, faster and cheaper.

Benefits of the common data environment include being able to automate or simplify time-intensive processes and support better, more informed decision-making. In early trials of the new approach, an analysis task that previously took four hours could be performed in 30 seconds. Elsewhere, a radar test cycle was reduced from several days to just a few hours.

The new approach recognises that Leonardo’s high-tech business is driven by the innovative thinking of its 8,000 highly skilled UK-based employees. A recent report by independent analysts Oxford Economics showed Leonardo UK employees to be 80% more productive than the national average. The increasing use of big data and other future factory initiatives will boost this further still.

Gareth said: “We started working on this project in January this year and we managed to get data into the hands of our first users by April – that’s an incredible feat when you think about the technology we put in place to connect everyone. Our users previously had to look in several different places for the data and now we’ve given them a whole new experience – it’s like the difference between trying to find something in the dark with candlelight and then someone turns on a light switch. Suddenly you see the whole picture.“

While the common data environment is expected to quickly start delivering insights and efficiencies, it is just one part of Leonardo’s ongoing UK transformation programme and will also act as a ‘digital backbone’ for a range of new electronics engineering, manufacturing and logistics initiatives including Digital Engineering, Integrated Planning, Supply Chain and Digital Factory projects. A move towards cloud-based data will follow later this year. By deploying such a data-driven approach to its own operations, Leonardo will also improve its ability to deliver similar models for customers such as the UK Ministry of Defence, which are pivoting towards a data-driven future.