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Piloting the digital future for a new era in innovation

Piloting the digital future for a new era in innovation

06 Apr 2018

There are few companies in the world with as storied a history as Rolls-Royce.


From its collaborative beginnings when Rolls went into partnership to sell cars manufactured by Royce, to being tasked by the British Government to design and build aircraft engines for the national defence efforts during World War I, Rolls-Royce has always been a leader in harnessing new technologies to pioneer better solutions for the world.


Fast forward to today where businesses are grappling with the impact of the digital revolution, Rolls-Royce remains one of the world’s leading producers of aero engines for civil aircraft and corporate jets, leading the vanguard for the future.


Rolls-Royce’s significant footprint in Singapore


Singapore is one of five global hubs for Rolls-Royce. Considering Singapore’s strategic location as the gateway to Asia Pacific, and the region’s explosive growth in passenger and air traffic in the next decade, being situated in Singapore helps keep Rolls-Royce close to its customer base in Asia.


Bicky Bhangu, Director of Rolls-Royce Singapore, explained in Singapore Aerospace 2017 by Global Business Reports, “Over half of our civil aerospace order books come from Asia and the Middle East, so it’s important for us to have a presence that’s close to our customers.”


Furthermore, Singapore is also a key factor in increasing the company’s global manufacturing capacity owing to its status as a leading aerospace hub with an extensive Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) ecosystem. The city-state is currently responsible for 10 per cent of the global MRO market.


Rolls-Royce’s S$700 million (USD$529 million) Seletar Campus brought high-technology manufacturing to Singapore and is the first outside of the United Kingdom to assemble and test its best-selling Trent aero engines, and manufacture the unique wide-chord fan blades essential to the engine’s success. 

Rolls-Royce’s Seletar Campus is the first outside of the United Kingdom to assemble and test its best-selling Trent aero engines.
Credit: Rolls-Royce Singapore 

Covering 154,000 sqm, this state-of-the-art facility also has a research arm — an Advanced Technology centre that will look into manufacturing and computational engineering technologies — and an internationally accredited regional training centre for employees and customers, the first of its kind in Asia. This gives the Singapore group the distinction of overseeing the entire life cycle of the Trent engines.  

The Seletar Campus also houses an Advanced Technology centre that will look into manufacturing and computational engineering technologies.
Credit: Rolls-Royce Singapore

Partnering to bring about advanced manufacturing


Rolls-Royce also has significant research & development (R&D) activity in Singapore. In 2017, Rolls-Royce, together with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and Singapore Aero Engine Services Private Limited (SAESL), launched a S$60 million (USD$45 million) Smart Manufacturing Joint Lab to develop Smart Manufacturing technologies. This five-year programme aims to develop cutting-edge digital and automation technologies that can be used to further improve productivity, efficiency and cost savings for aerospace-related businesses.


At the announcement, Rolls-Royce Chairman Ian Davis expressed confidence in the partnership, “Singapore is continually transforming, able and inventive. That is why Singapore is a compelling partner to work with.”


According to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Readiness for the Future of Production Report’, Singapore was recognised as one of the world’s top 25 leaders in manufacturing who are best positioned to benefit from the rise of Advanced Manufacturing. In the report’s “drivers of production” ranking which measures key enablers that help a country take advantage of Industry 4.0, Singapore ranked second only to the United States.


This partnership is considered an important step forward for the manufacturing industry in Singapore, which contributes up to 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, and employs 14 per cent of the total workforce in 2016. Not only will Singapore be at the forefront of how these technologies will be designed and test-bedded, the eventual adoption of these technologies by local industries will in turn support Singapore’s robust ecosystem of aerospace-related businesses.


A company of “firsts”


Determined to be a digital-first company for the 21st century, Rolls-Royce has yet again embraced its pioneering spirit. At the Singapore Airshow 2017, the company boldly announced a vision for the future – The IntelligentEngine.


Recognising how the digital revolution has blurred the boundaries between the products and services they provide, Rolls-Royce is planning for a future where their engines are “connected, contextually aware and even comprehending”.


This ambitious and forward-looking blueprint aims to leverage data analytics, industrial Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to design engines that can talk to other engines and machines in the ecosystem. These intelligent engines will be aware of the needs of the airline and be able to respond to their environment in real time. In time, they can even adjust their own behaviours to improve safety and efficiency.

The IntelligentEngine is a forward-looking blueprint that aims to design engines that can communicate to other machines in the ecosystem, using data analytics, industrial AI and machines learning.
Credit: Rolls-Royce Singapore

How will this change come about? Rolls-Royce estimates that it accumulates more than 70 trillion data points from its fleet each year. Being able to draw on and apply insights from this big data is central to the IntelligentEngine’s development.


In December 2017, Rolls-Royce also launched the R2 Data Labs, an acceleration hub that aims to develop data applications to generate better efficiencies in manufacturing, operations and aftermarket services or to unlock challenges across all their business divisions. AI, particularly machine learning, will be at the vanguard of reimagining new ways to design and operate, and meet the growing demands of their customers.


R2 Data Labs has six data innovation capability hubs across the world — the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, India, New Zealand and Singapore. These labs will house a community of AI experts and practitioners who will look into using data in ways that have yet to be uncovered, all so that the engine of tomorrow can be created.


Rolls-Royce has continuously lived up to its pedigree of pioneering and innovation. In a world of increased competition and disruptive technologies, Rolls-Royce’s relentless commitment to R&D and customer service has set it apart as an industry leader with a compelling vision for the future.


With Singapore placing the aerospace industry at the forefront of its economic strategy, underpinned by a highly-skilled manpower and manufacturing base, the relationship between Rolls-Royce and Singapore looks well-positioned to steer the industry through this pivotal period of change and growth.