Thought Leadership

Talking Aerospace Today – Authoritative Automation Part One – Summary

By Quinn Foster

The Talking Aerospace Today podcast continues its exploration of automation within the context of digital transformation maturity, featuring Todd Tuthill, Vice President of Aerospace and Defense (A&D) Industry at Siemens Digital Industries Software.

In the last few episodes, Todd discussed the first phase of the automation stage, what he calls “automating the mundane.” This consists of delegating mundane tasks that take up too much of engineers’ time to computers and algorithms, allowing engineers to focus on critical thinking and innovation. This latest episode examines the later, more advanced phase of automation, “authoritative automation.” In this episode Todd identifies what authoritative automation is, how to achieve it, and how it can be understood through its transformation of a relatable subject, personal navigation.

What is authoritative automation?

The term authoritative automation comes from a report by Dr. Will Roper, once the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force in acquisition, titled, “There is No Spoon,” in which he describes it as “the shrinking of real-world activities by expanding digital ones.” Todd goes on to expand the definition, saying how it is about doing more efficient things digitally to decrease the number of physical tasks required that are too expensive.

In a way, authoritative automation simply builds upon what automating the mundane is meant to do. Automating the mundane digitalizes and automates the dull, repetitive tasks that engineers do not want to do, such as processing data and writing test reports. Authoritative automation takes that same principle but applies it further, onto tasks that are traditionally assumed to be achievable only by human engineers.

How to reach authoritative automation

With that in mind, it should come to no surprise that to achieve authoritative automation within a company’s digital transformation maturity, one needs to build a foundation with the earlier stages. Configuration and connection, the first stages of digital transformation maturity that store and connect data digitally provide the digital scaffolding necessary to begin initial automation efforts. They begin the transition of systems being connected not by people, but by computers and algorithms.

Automating the mundane, meanwhile, helps build confidence in the concept of automation in general. Automating those small, tedious tasks can be considered a series of quick wins that not only creates an easier work environment for engineers, but also proves automation’s ability to successfully delegate more responsibilities to computers and save money. These early forms of automation provide the foundation to begin building more authoritative capabilities.

Authoritative automation in the world

While authoritative automation has yet to take hold in the aerospace industry, Todd points out how it has already transformed how we approach personal navigation. Decades ago, if someone wanted to travel a long distance in his car, they would need to use paper maps to find his way. Over time, though, technology would advance and relieve people from the burden of plotting their routes themselves. Early mapping software on Google and Yahoo would let them trace their route on a computer instead of paper, then built-in GPSs would plot the route for them. Now their smartphones not only give directions, but also superimpose real-time traffic data and uses optimization data to find the best route.

Authoritative automation may sound like a far-off notion, but in reality, it has already radically transformed an aspect of our lives that many of us take for granted. If authoritative automation could improve how we navigate the world so drastically, imagine what it could do to engineering design.

Elevating the bar

Automation in digital transformation maturity is where A&D companies truly begin utilizing digital technology to its fullest, and much of that comes from the abilities of authoritative automation. Where automating the mundane helps by targeting dull tasks that nobody wants to do, authoritative automation’s focus on more complex tasks makes it the gateway to the even more advanced stages of digital transformation maturity. Tune in next time to learn just how it could transform aerospace engineering as we know it.

Be sure to listen to the full episode or read the transcript.

Siemens Digital Industries Software helps organizations of all sizes digitally transform using software, hardware and services from the Siemens Xcelerator business platform. Siemens’ software and the comprehensive digital twin enable companies to optimize their design, engineering and manufacturing processes to turn today’s ideas into the sustainable products of the future. From chips to entire systems, from product to process, across all industries. Siemens Digital Industries Software – Accelerating transformation.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at