AFMC Robotic Process Automation roadshow drives innovation

  • Published
  • By Kayla Prather
  • Air Force Materiel Command

Air Force Materiel Command Airmen now have the tools to accelerate change faster and smarter thanks to the Robotic Process Automation Roadshow, Dec. 6-9, driven by the Commander’s Accelerated Initiatives team.

The goal of the event was to teach Airmen better ways to manage repetitive work tasks through technology and automation tools.

“Our Airmen are bogged down with repetitive, monotonous tasks,” said Matthew Roberts, RPA Program Manager at the Air Force Robotic Process Automation Center of Excellence. “The overarching mission of the RPA Center of Excellence is enabling all of our Airmen and Guardians through training events that teach our workforce how to use and apply automation tools.”

The theme for the roadshow was, “Democratizing Automation for Every Airmen,” and it focused on hands-on RPA training. The training focused on ways to automate repetitive, redundant processes that Airmen do on a daily basis.

Most of the attendees had no understanding of RPA and were selected to attend the workshop based on both a process need and desire to learn more.

“If a process takes 100 steps, you might be able to only automate 10 of those steps, but that alone can cut the entire process down by 10 minutes,” said Dave Sorrels, Customer Success Manager for UiPath. “If that same process is done 100 times a day, think of how much time could be saved for Airmen to work on other projects?”

Participants, based out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, learned how simple work processes can go from taking hours to mere minutes with the help of a computerized robot. They were introduced to RPA software on the first day of the training event and by the end of the week, they had built an actual bot to speed up a specific task.

“We’ve been directed by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to be innovative and to accelerate while also empowering Airmen,” said Capt. Javier Colon, an accelerator in the Commander’s Accelerated Initiatives Office. “I see automation and this roadshow as part of a branch of those action orders given by the CSAF.”

RPA is already being used in industry as well as throughout the Air Force to automate many processes, such as identifying computer threats and launching firewalls within seconds, pulling information from document files to automatically key in logistics information, and for a number of other processes, minimizing the potential for human error.

It is also used to connect multiple legacy systems to incorporate data into one place and to automatically feed updates into weekly PowerPoint slides for briefings and leadership awareness.

“We hope to capitalize on the training experience by getting Airmen the exposure and tools to automate, improve and streamline daily process they encounter and achieve a greater throughput of work,” said Colon. “We want Airmen to focus on their mission, and automation can enable that.” 

The training was motivated by Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. Attendees got an inside look at the drive for change, reviewing a video of Wilson in 2020 where he stated, “Automation will give Airmen back time to build the Air Force we need, not wasting time doing things computers were designed to do.”

By the last day of the training event, all participants were able to practice automation and a portion of them were able to complete an automated process.

“The results of this event were amazing. Having automation engineers co-located with Airmen really took it home for us both for training and automation application. We hope our Air Force workforce maintains automation momentum to enable a culture shift on our way of doing business,” said Colon. “By having this training event, we are not only taking a step forward to train Airmen to be self-sufficient in automation, we are also expanding the possibility of scaling automations across the enterprise.”

Through automation, AFMC is bridging the gap between redundant processes and accelerating innovation, ensuring teams can work faster and more effectively every day.

“We are equipping our workforce with new capabilities, ensuring that we work smarter, not harder, to deliver our mission needs,” said Colon.

 To learn more about future events, Airmen can reach out to SAF.ARPA.COE@us.af.mil or access the Center of Excellence MilSuite.