How RPA Can Improve the Aerospace Industry


Robotic Process Automation is easily amenable to a number of industries; it’s already proven useful in healthcare, banking, and finance – so it’s no surprise an increasing number of aerospace providers are looking to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a way to measurably cut costs, improve compliance, and streamline customer interactions. In order to shed light on automation in aerospace, let’s first consider RPA, assess some potential applications of the software for aerospace companies, as well as the value proposition RPA brings.


Warming Up to RPA

Technological innovations tend to gradually unfold within the aerospace industry, and professionals in the field can’t help but notice the benefits and the challenges of a digital workforce and operational strategy. It’s clear digital technologies have cemented their place in boardroom discussions…but it’s also evident that aerospace companies will need some time to warm up to the idea of implementing automation.

An estimated 60% of respondents in an EY survey “believe looming advances in technology will require their companies to retrain and redeploy existing employees,” whereas 53% “believe it will create opportunities and necessitate hiring new talent.” However, similarly forward-thinking ideas about digital transformation aren’t embraced by aerospace companies universally.

In fact, some have seen and continue to see technological development, including RPA, as a burden. Many see digitization as a threat to their business models and are more hesitant to adopt emerging technologies. In order to shed light on automation in aerospace, we need to consider the ideological skepticism surrounding RPA, assess some potential applications of the software for aerospace companies, as well as the value proposition RPA brings.


RPA’s Value Proposition

To first gain a clearer understanding of the value of RPA, let’s first consider this technology’s emerging role through a few example applications and use cases. First, take the perspective of a publicly traded oil and gas company based at the Gulf Coast of the United States with 5,000 employees and $10 billion in yearly revenue. Faced with slow operational processes, inefficient and timely relationship management with customers and partners, and middling digital optimization in the back office, the oil and gas company used the automation capabilities of RPA to:


1. Analyze data patterns 

Because they constantly record and monitor their actions, RPA software robots – or “digital workers” – collect vast quantities of data—everything from a customer’s purchasing preferences to insights on the efficiency of internal business operations. Still not impressed? RPA digital workers can easily reveal the amount of time it takes to process an order, quantity of outstanding transactions, as well as the processes that generated exceptions and required further human intervention – without breaking a sweat.

While large amounts of data are produced by RPA, they can also be analyzed. The company in question, for example, used RPA to help identify patterns among sensor information and drilling data contained within daily drilling reports. Through RPA’s analytical capabilities, the oil company was able to make better informed decisions for drilling wells and reduce process bottlenecks to increase operational efficiency, improve employee utilization, and reach higher levels of back-office productivity.


2. Improve Accounting Processes

Accounting processes generally take up a lot of employee time and stay extremely repetitive, with employees often working over weekends trying to close the books at the end of each month. A company can use RPA to automate several different financial processes that use a lot of time an energy, such as:

  • Recording journal entries
  • Monitoring revenue and expense accounts
  • Preparing financial statements
  • Reconciling balance sheet accounts
  • Accounts Payable
  • Accounts Receivable

Automation can help ease the process, only requiring finance analyst intervention when exceptions are generated and the employees then alerted, freeing their time for more constructive tasks requiring human ingenuity. Not only can automation help streamline a generally manual process, it enables a company to get better visualization of the process and their finances by providing analytic insight with recorded data.


3. Streamline Joint Ventures

Joint ventures, while necessary to help meet regulatory requirements, mitigate risk, and share resources – including access to technology, often involve the integration of various systems and platforms between companies. This can lead to serious IT chaos and cluster headaches. On the other hand, trying to maintain separate and incongruent systems can cost a business a lot of time and money.

RPA can meet in the middle and bridge the systems gap by interacting with different applications through the presentation layer, streamlining interactions between various customer databases, inventory systems, etc. This solution requires no system rehaul and can keep audit logs of various interactions.


RPA in Aerospace

As we’ve seen with the automation capabilities provided by RPA, high volumes of continuously streaming data can provide an opportunity to optimize operational outputs in the back office through data analysis and improving accounting processes.

While machine learning and advanced cognitive capabilities are largely still a part of the future, the benefits of RPA are already tangible. Rather than being timid about implementation, aerospace organizations must adopt more ambitious goals in the digitization of their operations. RPA should be embraced with open arms to ensure that the benefits of digital transformation are being leveraged to their fullest extent.