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Robotic Process Automation in the Aerospace Sector

The aerospace industry produces a never-ending flow of data. In fact, just one Boeing 737 flight from New York to Los Angeles generates 20 terabytes of data every hour. Aviation’s sheer data volume exponentially increases the need to streamline collection and analysis to transform this information into actionable insights.

One top solution is Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which manages routine, rule-based tasks using smart bots. RPA helps aviation organizations execute countless daily tasks and checklists, requiring consistency and the highest accuracy.

What is RPA in the aviation industry?

The aviation industry is increasingly shifting toward automated and digitized solutions to reduce manual, time-consuming tasks while analyzing its immense data inputs. In fact, the global RPA reached $7.35 billion in Aerospace in 2021.

Modern advancements in RPA technology incorporate new AI and machine learning capabilities. This integration produces software bots with better cognitive abilities that can make intelligent decisions, significantly helping management and operations planning in the aerospace sector. RPA in the aviation industry can harness software bots to automate many essential business areas, such as airport administration, ticket reservations, quality assurance, customer relations, aircraft navigation, air traffic control, and more.

How can RPA help aerospace organizations?

The top benefits of adopting RPA in aerospace industries include:

  • 24/7 operation to maximize productivity and efficiency
  • Increased accuracy for minimizing errors
  • Improved regulatory compliance and safety
  • Effective quality management
  • Better customer service
  • Continuous record updating
  • Full audit trail to ease accounting issues

What are examples of RPA uses in the aviation industry?

RPA can improve various aerospace processes to boost productivity and quality. Here are eight top examples of RPA use in aviation businesses.

1. Administration The aerospace industry has many administrative departments and processes with different requirements, including maintenance, finance, cargo, testing, and airworthiness. Each business unit utilizes various software programs and generates copious paperwork with varying compliance requirements. For instance, many aviation documents must be retained for the life of the aircraft and should be readily available when regulators, customers, and suppliers require them, including:
  • Maintenance records
  • Toolbox and control cards
  • Supplier invoices
  • Release notes
  • Work packs, including aircraft service records
  • Travelers documents and Certificates of Conformity
A workforce of RPA bots can integrate these various systems, migrate their data, and organize it accordingly to allow for easy, flexible access for approved personnel. It can also automatically sort and update documents while minimizing human error, ensuring information is up to date, accurate, and always sent to the correct place.

2. EInvoicing
Airlines partner with hundreds of international travel agencies to sell airline tickets, making their distribution channels and revenue management more complicated:

  • Airlines receive invoice lists from all over the world in multiple formats, which require significant time and effort to process manually and are highly subject to error.
  • The invoicing process requires vigilant monitoring to ensure no deficit between the ticket fares and the amount collected by the various agencies.

RPA bots can automate many invoicing tasks, such as:

  • Receiving, approving, and logging invoices
  • Reformatting invoice data if it comes in an unstructured or atypical way
  • Accounts and supplier statement reconciliation
  • Validating payments and checking for duplication
  • Credit checks

This automation reduces workload and increases accuracy, ensuring no revenue leakage.

3. Customer Relations
From delayed flights and cramped seats to lost baggage and unruly fellow passengers, U.S. airlines received 102,550 complaints in 2020 alone, a 568% increase from 2019. These complaints vary in format, length, and importance, making sorting, categorizing, and addressing them time-consuming and repetitive.

RPA bots can streamline and improve customer relations by:

  • Reading complaints, creating case tickets, and sorting them by the degree of importance, flagging those that need immediate action
  • Understanding complaint categories and automatically sending them to the correct department or employee for action

The aviation industry can see a dramatic increase in customer satisfaction by reducing the number of unanswered complaints that fall through the cracks due to overwhelmed staff.

4. Air Traffic Control
Poor air traffic control (ATC) causes passenger delays and increases operating costs. The Economist estimates that flight delays and cancellations caused by mismanagement in ATC cost the European economy almost $21 billion in 2017, and ATC caused about twice the number of delays as other factors.

RPA can work with machine learning technology to exchange airplanes’ flight data in real-time. This ability automatically calculates the most efficient safe distance that planes must maintain before landing, achieving two crucial goals:

  • Increases the number of aircraft that can land while maintaining safety
  • Minimizes the chance of collisions due to unforeseen circumstances, such as strong headwinds

5. Travelers Communication
Between January and July, there were 128,934 flight cancellations in the U.S. in 2022, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Airline agencies and airports must keep up with this high volume and quickly inform travelers of likely delays and cancellations. In addition, on-the-spot changes often pop up that can affect travelers making their flight if not communicated promptly, such as gate changes or updates to boarding times.

RPA can automatically exchange information across multiple applications, keeping passengers updated with the latest news. Examples include:

  • Drafting and sending push notifications or emails
  • Providing context, such as “gate number was changed because a vacant jetway could not be found in time.”

6. Crew Scheduling
Aviation has struggled with efficient crew scheduling for more than 60 years. Airlines must deal with a long list of factors when assigning trips to staff, including:

  • Employee contracts
  • Union stipulations
  • Safety regulations
  • Date and time of last flight
  • Availability
  • Experience

RPA software can automatically connect with HR files to extract employee contract information, time schedules, and other stipulations. That way, airlines can select the crew most suitable for any flight and easily avoid scheduling issues while staying compliant with safety and union regulations.

7. Aircraft maintenance
Aircraft maintenance is critical in the aviation industry. Completing detailed checklists daily is repetitive work on top of the hands-on workload engineers must perform, and many departments have trouble keeping up. This backlog contributes to airline delays and efficiency.

RPA bots can streamline this process and assist overwhelmed maintenance departments by:

  • Creating detailed software scripts that connect aircraft and maintenance information and exchange it in real-time
  • Building appropriate checklists that inform engineers about the issues that need their focus
  • Communicating effectively between engineers to ensure all checks are done in time by the appropriate personnel and with minimum waste of time and resources
  • Conducting supplier checks for compliance and risk management
  • Tracking stock levels for aircraft parts and ordering accurate quantities
  • Sending automated notifications about shipment progression from ordering to delivery

8. Regulatory compliance
An essential aspect of the aviation industry is complying with different regulatory bodies, such as the Civil Aviation Authority or the European Aviation Safety Agency. This time-consuming task keeps employees away from other work.

RPA delivers high accuracy on process execution, enabling businesses to comply quickly and effectively, such as:

  • Validating documents to ensure they’re up-to-date and contain all required information
  • Demonstrating airlines conduct the correct risk identification, assessment, and management procedures
  • Automating HR functions and employee onboarding processes, such as right-to-work checks
  • Ordering uniforms, PPE, and relevant equipment

The Bottom Line

The aerospace industry deals with data quantities so large it would take humans multiple lifetimes to process it manually. RPA is ideal for aviation because it performs rule-based processes consistently and error-free, working 24/7 to handle the extreme workload. From maintenance and compliance to customer service and crew scheduling, RPA is a vital tool in the aerospace sector that can dramatically improve safety and efficiency.

Aviation businesses can invest in innovation and growth by ensuring employees can focus on vital tasks. Contact our automation experts at qBotica today to start crafting your automation vision.