Between pot plants and aircraft
Aurélien Clémenté digitalises processes for aerospace customers. In his private life, he collects Bonsai trees and keeps hens. How this fits.
Aurélien frowns and screws up his eyes. There’s a cloudless sky above Toulouse and he is dazzled by the sun. While the 40-year-old Managing Director of umlaut's Software Business Unit was on vacation he was building an outdoor kitchen. We are transported to his building site via a video link, going past a dozen artistically trimmed Bonsai trees in pots that have been arranged around the perimeter of the lawn. On the grass, his hens "Picotte" and "Calinette" are cackling in their run – 'I hope that wasn't a comment about my kitchen – otherwise you will have to help to clean the dishes,’ jokes Aurélien.
In his role as a digital visionary, he would otherwise be speaking to his strong team of tech geeks in his office, not far from the offices of one of the biggest aeronautic companies. His tasks include the development of software tools and digital ready processes for clients from various industries. In addition to this, one of the key focal areas of his work at umlaut in Toulouse is to support the customer in the analysis of data to reduce the likelihood of disruptive events creating inefficiencies and the potential impact of various scenario. ‘We aim to support our customers' transformation to digitize the entire value creation chain: from the initial configuration to engineering services, securing data continuity through the production and delivery.’ Countless design plans, drawings, tests, and certifications are required before a new aircraft can be approved for take-off. ‘Digitalisation enables the customer to get to market faster and creates a more innovative environment where engineers can focus on high-value work,’ he says.
'The Bonsai trees calm me down'
Nothing is left in analogue form. Aurélien's colleagues call him MOD – Master of Digital – because he is constantly thinking up ways to automate and digitalise his environment. ‘I start thinking about it as soon as I get up,’ he says. While he is driving his daughters to school, he calls the umlaut developers and runs through some initial scenarios for a new idea that he wants to present to his customer. When he arrives at the office, it's already time for the first meeting. Breakfast? ‘Just coffee. Around 10 cups a day.’ As Aurélien talks, he runs his hand over the freshly trimmed crown of his Ficus tree. This one-meter-high Bonsai was the first in his collection. He acquired it ten years ago when his father died. Aurélien sees a clear connection between taking care of his trees and his job. ‘Bonsais force you to slow down. They calm me down and help me to make the right decisions. If you don't trim them correctly or you do too quickly, you can finish them off,’ he says. It's a bit easier with the hens. ‘They eat up all our leftovers, lay eggs and only need my daughter's attention once a week – the ideal pets for her.’ Learning to take responsibility for others is something you can only learn gradually – step by step – as the leisure gardener and family man tells us. It was the same for him.
When he was only six years old, Aurélien used to love standing on the airport runway watching the aircraft in his hometown of Agen, 100 kilometres north of Toulouse. ‘I was always fascinated by the idea that 300 tonnes of metal and technical equipment could lift off from the ground and honestly I still have the same feeling today, watching them from my garden,’ he says. He turned his fascination into a vocation and got his first job in the aviation sector as an electrical engineer. In his role deployed at Airbus in Hamburg, Aurélien carried out studies and designed electrical harness routing. ‘Yet, if I am honest, clicking around on the computer screen didn't really do much for me. After all, I have always had this childhood dream in which human ingenuity was freed from repetitive tasks.’ he says. umlaut embraced his vision and based on his passion for transformation, understood that he would be the best fit to bridge domain expertise with software tools. He got promoted as the global aerospace digitalisation lead. Together with his team, he is glad, he can focus on critical questions about the future of aviation: How will the aircraft of the future need to be built? What role will artificial intelligence and automation play in this? How to democratise the software technology to aerospace engineers and unlock their full potential?
He gets his best ideas early in the morning drinking his coffee
For a year now, under his leadership, his team has been pushing limits, creating proof of concepts and solutions to support Airbus Engineering in its digital journey. ‘I’m confident our cool passionate team with domain expertise and software skills will play an important role in the Airbus transformation. My team is eager to demonstrate their full potential on a grander scale.’ he says. The most disruptive ideas enabling large-scale transformation usually come to him when he is getting ready for work. ‘I get my best ideas early in the morning drinking my coffee in my garden. I thought one day that combining automation and valuation of the data with human ingenuity will create the best environment for Hyperautomation,’ he says. According to Gartner’s Top Strategic Tech Trends report, Hyperautomation is considered to be one of the megatrends for the next decade. It brings together technologies such as process automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and process mining.
Believing in the moonshot strategy
Aurélien is delighted to be with umlaut because he has the freedom to nurture his innovation skills together with his customers. As real partners, Airbus and his team have the courage to imagine the future of engineering. ‘What's important to me is having creative freedom. The thing that drives my team and I, our vision, is to create moonshot projects, and demonstrate their feasibility.’ To completely transform an area of business, to bring about 90 percent efficiency improvement, one needs to think big. Moonshot strategies take their inspiration from President Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon.
Aurélien wishes: New propulsion systems and other new technologies will be developed and hopefully aircrafts with lower emission will glide quietly over his Bonsai trees and hens.
As aircraft safety always remains the top priority, things will move slowly but surely. Freeing the innovative potential of engineers will enable a better future for the aviation sector. Aurélien wishes: new propulsion systems and other new technologies will be developed and hopefully aircraft with lower emissions will glide quietly across the sky over his Bonsai trees and his outdoor kitchen. In his view, passengers will be the ones who pull the market purchasing flight tickets, in favour of a particular aircraft, its propulsion system, its destination airport as well as its impact on our planet. We determine what flights will be like in the future, how they will develop in terms of sustainability, what they will need to feel like,’ he says. He still regularly goes to the runway to watch the technology giants as they take off. With some of them, he can say: ‘I worked on that one.’