Mission Critical — Product Realization for Aerospace & Defense

by Brian Murphy / October 17, 2023

In today's rapidly evolving aerospace and defense (A&D) market, product realization services have become a critical part of mission and commercial success. With dwindling research and development (R&D) budgets, an ever-increasing need to field products faster, and requirements to fit more capabilities into smaller packages, partnering with a product realization service provider has become a necessary tool. The benefits of leveraging product realization services are manifold, ranging from cost savings to accelerated time-to-market, enhanced quality, and improved customer satisfaction.

Aerospace and defense companies compete in a global marketplace and execute programs with multiple partners and suppliers. To be successful in this environment, they must execute programs across the extended organization, delivering products that meet scheduling and budget requirements. However, programs often fail due to the late discovery of design and manufacturing issues at the most inconvenient and expensive time to implement changes. The ideal solution is to implement product realization services in the initial stages of product and concept development.

Streamlining the Product Development Cycle

Product realization services integrate design engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain development support from early in product development, addressing interdependencies in parallel rather than sequentially. This ensures that decisions made early in the design phase do not create obstacles later in the product realization process. For example, design engineers select components in consultation with manufacturing engineers during the design phase, ensuring that all selected components are likely to be available from trusted vendors compatible with intended manufacturing processes. The more complex the system and the more untested the technology, the greater the system interdependencies. Such a scenario is ideal for integrated product realization services.

One of the primary advantages of using product realization services is the acceleration of the product development cycle. These services often pair your team members with experienced professionals who specialize in various aspects of product development, from design engineers to supply chain experts. By outsourcing these critical tasks to experts who work on several product realization projects a year (and strengthen their skill set from these experiences), companies can save valuable time.

This streamlined process allows for faster ideation, prototyping, and refinement, ultimately reducing time to market. Streamlining the process also enables A&D companies to respond swiftly to changing market demands while staying ahead of the competition. Product realization services expedite the development process by leveraging your partner's experience and resources from design and prototyping to manufacturing and component sourcing. The result is a quicker time to market which can be a significant competitive advantage, particularly with A&D demands characterized by rapid technological advancements and changing mission requirements.

Risk Mitigation

It is important to keep in mind, however, that product development carries inherent risks, from design flaws to supply chain disruptions. Product realization experts can help mitigate these risks through their experience and knowledge, employing rigorous quality control measures and risk assessment protocols to identify potential issues early in the development process. These specialized service providers likely also have contingency plans in place to address unexpected challenges, ensuring that the project stays on track. By partnering with product realization experts, companies can reduce the likelihood of costly setbacks and project failures. This is especially true in defense products where lengthy and expensive qualification processes essentially lock down a design and hinder future design changes.

Extensive testing and iteration at the design and qualification stages are critical to success. Working with separate design and manufacturing teams — whether they are in-house or outsourced — poses added risks. Oversights, for instance, and miscommunications might fail to address problems identified in testing or even inadvertently create new ones. Take a millimeter wave system as an example. Designers must work with manufacturing engineers to ensure their designs will be manufacturable with the available equipment. Slight changes in the length of a wire, the chemistry of a solder paste, or the time in the solder reflow step can cause signal problems. Test developers need to work with designers to make sure they have the test points needed. They must also collaborate with the manufacturing side to make sure tests are done at the right point in the process. Working with a single product realization team mitigates these risks.

Focus on Software

The rise of software-defined systems for everything from radios to radars increases the flexibility and adaptability of defense systems to new battlefield threats without costly hardware replacements. As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes foundational to the operation of the connected battlespace, the focus on software-driven capabilities will only increase. This trend has led many defense systems providers to consider software as their core competency, but that doesn’t mean hardware doesn’t need to be developed. Tightly interwoven hardware and software combinations are the most effective. For example, AI is only as powerful as the quality and reliability of the data it is fed, making custom-sensor and data-transmission hardware the underappreciated backbone of such systems. After all, a Raspberry Pi might be fine in the development phase, but it can’t pass a shrapnel test.

This gives defense primes two main options — continue to carry a large hardware development organization or partner with a product realization service provider. Although the former is convenient from a control perspective, it is challenging to keep fully staffed and fully utilized as requirements fluctuate. On the other hand, many product realization service providers don’t have sufficient expertise in defense systems and underlying technologies, such as RF/microwave and optics, to serve as a reliable partner. For this reason, many defense technology companies choose a hybrid method where they leverage a combination of engineering service companies and electronics manufacturing service providers for more conventional systems and keep the riskier work in-house.

Access to Specialized Expertise

Product realization services provide access to a wealth of specialized expertise. Whether it's designing a complex electronic component, conducting exhaustive qualification testing, or managing a global supply chain, these service providers have the knowledge and experience to effectively manage intricate tasks. This expertise can be especially beneficial for companies lacking the in-house resources or specific skills required for certain product development stages. By outsourcing to experts, businesses can leverage their knowledge to develop superior products while mitigating the risks associated with unfamiliar territory.

One of Benchmark’s key strengths is our ability to provide end-to-end solutions for product realization. From the initial design and prototyping stages to manufacturing, testing, and even logistics and aftermarket support, we offer a comprehensive suite of services. This end-to-end approach simplifies the product development process for businesses while leaving the complexities of manufacturing to the experts.

Benchmark is the Proven Partner of Choice for Product Realization

Product realization services should be a tool in the toolkit of all original electronics manufacturers (OEMs) specializing in defense systems. Benchmark’s product realization solutions help you deliver the best possible technology to the warfighter, offering benefits such as cost savings, accelerated delivery times, improved quality, and greater focus on core strengths. By leveraging our product realization expertise and resources, you will better navigate the complexities of defense system development while positioning your company as a critical part of the connected, intelligent battlespace.

Benchmark boasts a decades-long track record of excellence in defense system engineering and manufacturing. With expertise in RF/microwave and millimeter wave systems, edge computing, optics, ruggedization, size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) reduction, and other technologies critical for today’s defense systems, defense OEMs can confidently partner with Benchmark even on projects that previously were thought to be too difficult to outsource. Whether you’re looking for a partner to focus on the hardware so that you can make your software the focus, create new versions of an existing system for added applications, or move fast on a new program, Benchmark is the product realization partner of choice for defense systems.

For more information on our product realization services, visit us today

Defense Aerospace Design & Engineering Product Design & Launch Connected Battlespace Ruggedization Electronic Warfare

about the author

Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy is a Business Development Executive in the Aerospace & Defense sector at Benchmark. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and served as a Mission Systems and Space Programs Acquisitions Officer. Brian has held numerous leadership positions running technology product launches and new venture start-up campaigns in the telecommunications, industrial infrastructure, and defense industries. Brian hails from Indiana and is an avid Air Force football fan, a once-upon-a-time marathon runner, and a very high handicap golfer. He holds a BS in Management from the U.S. Air Force Academy and an MBA from Xavier University.

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