Airbus Expands Partnership to Advance Companywide Digital Transformation in Procurement

In his Wall Street Journal Best Seller “The Digital Helix: Transforming Your Organization DNA to Thrive in the Digital Age” author and top 10 global AI influencer, Michael Gale provides plenty of evidence that companies who embrace digital transformation gain a significant advantage over their peers and competitors. One highly complex industry which is certainly focused on embracing digital technologies to drive transformation is that of aerospace. Costs to produce planes, helicopters, defence and space equipment are staggering, and any marginal gains can be profound in terms of bottom-line savings. Transformation projects in the supply chain are common in aerospace manufacturing, with the Industry 4.0 revolution and the adoption of IoT technologies having significant potential to reduce costs and improve accuracy and quality. Investment has been significant in Industry 4.0 through robotics, IIOT, RPA software, wearables, augmented reality and big data analytics amongst other technologies. Most of the digital transformation that has been achieved so far in aerospace has been in the manufacturing process and supply chain.

However, for digital transformation to be truly successful it needs to be adopted, supported and championed across the whole of the organisation, embedding itself in its very culture and DNA. This is a point well made in the book. But Gale’s research leads him to conclude that only 6% of the global 2000 industrial manufacturing companies are applying AI technologies outside of the manufacturing processes. And these companies are taking over 28% of all the economic upsides from digital transformation in their sectors.

“The aviation manufacturing business has always been hyper-efficient.  However digital transformation ideas that start in areas like procurement are going to have enormous ripple effects elsewhere in the corporation. Areas like design and manufacturing can more readily integrate new suppliers, materials and ideas with that same level of efficiency for faster, smoother and more innovative based on the application of AI tools like this,” he writes.

One of the 6% applying AI technology outside the manufacturing process is Airbus, the aerospace giant who has been on a digital transformation journey for the last 3 years and appointed a Digital Transformation Officer, Marc Fontaine, to oversee the initiative in May 2016. As Fontaine said in a Boston Consulting Group video last year, “Digital transformation offers…the potential to add intelligence through analytics and machine learning, to help people focus on doing their jobs and applying their knowledge, rather than spending much of their time simply gathering information.”

One area that Airbus is applying this level of intelligence is to their procurement contract corpus. Since selecting and implementing Seal a couple of years ago, they have been digitizing their contracts and extracting core information out of them to gain as much contract data visibility as possible using machine learning models inherent in the Seal platform. This has led to a greater understanding of such key issues as obligation management and payment terms. This week we announced an extension of the use of Seal within Airbus to address even more deeply the transformation of the contracting processes in Airbus Procurement. Seal is set to deliver more than 80 customized pre-built extraction modules, allowing Airbus to digitize contractual documents and agreement-related images in a first step towards more dynamic search, contract management and analysis capabilities.

Airbus is one of more than 100 Global 2000 enterprises adopting Seal’s ML platform to address a variety of use cases. In many instances, the use of Seal is part of a major transformation initiative, as they move from just knowing what is in their contracts to using that knowledge to derive insight and ultimately answers to their most pressing contractual questions.