For the Defense Logistics Agency, it’s all about the RPAs

The Defense Logistics Agency has saved more than 200,000 labor-hours with the 82 robotic process automation (RPA) bots it has launched in the past year, its CIO says.

The agency provides more than $42 billion in goods and services and manages nine supply chains for the Department of Defense and other parts of the government. Adding even small bits of automation to its processes can be highly beneficial, DLA’s chief information and innovation officer, George Duchak, said during an AFCEA virtual AI event on May 21. And because the agency acts almost like an in-house contractor for the DOD, it always has the bottom line in mind.

DLA first drew up a proof of concept for RPA deployment last March. It initially estimated saving 50,000 labor-hours, but just over a year later it had quadrupled that. Using basic bots is the first step in the agency’s “AI journey” Duchak said, but the DLA is happy to stay on this first step for now.

The RPAs are fully implemented — not just test runs, Duchak said.

Eventually, DLA wants to give the RPAs more complex tasks that would require machine learning, as other parts of the DOD are trying to do. Expanding automation will rely mostly on how well the agency can collect and utilize its data, which Duchak called the “feedstock” of machine learning.

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