The CT4INSPIRE Seminar Series Hosts Dr. Rick LaRowe

On September 26th, Dr. Rick LaRowe spoke at the Industry 4.0 and Manufacturing Ingenuity course. The course, funded by CTNext, fosters innovation and entrepreneurship by providing students with exposure to emerging technologies in automation, cyber physical systems, and advanced manufacturing. The course is built upon seminars by invited industrial speakers to introduce cutting-edge technologies and challenges.

LaRowe is the Principal Engineering Fellow at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, a top-tier defense contractor. LaRowe joined Raytheon in 2002. Raytheon is divided into four primary businesses, and LaRowe works in the area of Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). This area uses expertise across a broad portfolio of sensors, weapons and integration of systems to provide its global customers with affordable, integrated solutions that span multiple mission areas, including air and missile defense systems, missle defense radars, early warning radars, naval ship operating systems, command and control, and other advanced technologies.

In his talk entitled “Digital Transformation: Opportunities & Successes in the Aerospace Industry”, Dr. LaRowe makes it clear that the biggest problem with digital transformation is the lack of consistency in digital formatting. He says that we should always approach a problem by thinking about the customers. For Raytheon, the primary customers are the Department of Defense (DoD). For the DoD, Raytheon wants to push model-based systems engineering and provide a source of truth.

LaRowe then defined digital transformation: the application of digital technologies to transform how Raytheon does business and supports customers’ missions. Digital transformation is essentially trying to enable technologies to support the production lifecycle. Digital transformation can be divided into four categories: digital sustainment services, digital business capture, secure smart factory, and digital product engineering. The two categories that LaRowe focused on were digital business capture and secure smart factory. Digital business capture includes operations analysis, modeling & simulation, and advanced analytics. Smart factory involves IoT, machine learning, automation, and robotics.

Next, LaRowe explained the difference between digital thread and digital twin. Digital thread is defined as a collaborative engineering framework that digitally connects data flow and data views of a system throughout its life cycle across traditionally “siloed” engineering functions. Digital thread ties together all of the different artifacts in the life cycle. On the other hand, digital twin refers to a physics-based set of digital models representing a physical system, its surrounding environment, and real-time data feeds.

LaRowe stressed the importance of an authoritative source of truth. During the manufacturing and design process, information is copied from one place to another. It is easy to lose track of which artifact is accurate. Linked data architecture helps to solve this problem by maintaining sustainability.

LaRowe emphasized, “what we are trying to do is change the way we do business”. This change must overcome the current challenges, which include resistance to change from large organizations, the difficulty of building a digital thread for a legacy system, and lots of data.