AFPC receives Innovation Award for ‘Digital Airman’ initiative

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jeremy L. Mosier
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The Air Force Personnel Center’s Innovation Cell and Robotics Process Automation Branch were awarded the 2019 Larry O. Spencer Innovation award in September 2020.

The annual award, named after former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Larry O. Spencer, recognizes the individual and/or team who demonstrates innovation in cost and manpower savings to improve efficiency, operational readiness and replication of the innovation across the Air Force enterprise.

“The competition for this year's award was fierce,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “The AFPC Innovation Cell & RPA Branch team's contributions directly demonstrate the spirit of the Spencer Innovation Award.”

In 2019, the team deployed the first-ever "Digital Airman” by successfully mapping and automating repeatable, rule-based administrative actions, designed to allow Airmen to focus on more strategic and innovation-centric functions.

“The introduction of robotic process automation has saved us countless work hours, has significantly reduced errors and has ultimately freed up our Airmen to perform more substantive work,” said Maj. Melinda Monahan, AFPC Innovation Cell chief.

In the first year alone, it replaced the manual validation of approximately 276,000 military tests, automated 65,000 evaluation uploads and 10,500 separations, resulting in the saving of 5,200 man hours. The intent is to target more than 100 administrative processes for automation that will run unattended, servicing customers 24/7, anywhere on the planet.

“The success of our first robotic process automation bot opened our eyes to the possibilities of utilizing this technology on many repetitive, tedious, rule-based tasks at AFPC,” Monahan explained. “We quickly realized that freeing our Airmen from this type of work allowed more opportunities for them to focus on the customer, and reimagining how they do work.”

As technology continues to evolve, the Air Force is searching for solutions to streamline processes and create a better way of life for Airmen and their families. Cultivating innovation helps solve challenges that can potentially result in groundbreaking future Air Force capabilities. The AFPC Innovation Cell and RPA Branch teams demonstrated the innovation spirit. They stood out amongst 14 nominees who competed for the title.

“Our team is extremely proud and honored to be selected for this award,” Monahan said. “Being able to successfully leverage RPA at AFPC, and eventually across the Air Force, is a testament to the power of innovation. This all started with an Airmen’s idea that we were able to bring to life and scale at AFPC.”