Mentions of industrial automation within the filings of companies in the aerospace and defence sector rose 32% between the third and fourth quarters of 2021.

In total, the frequency of sentences related to industrial automation during 2021 was 9% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData, from whom our data for this article is taken, first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.

When companies in the aerospace and defence sector publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Industrial automation is one of these topics - companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether industrial automation is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of companies in the aerospace and defence sector, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies which have mentioned industrial automation at least once in filings during the past twelve months - this was 85% compared to 80% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to industrial automation.

Of the 20 biggest employers in the aerospace and defence sector, Leidos was the company which referred to industrial automation the most during 2021. GlobalData identified 31 industrial automation-related sentences in the United States-based company's filings - 0.6% of all sentences. Leonardo mentioned industrial automation the second most - the issue was referred to in 0.4% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high industrial automation mentions included Saab, RTX and BAE.

Across all companies in the aerospace and defence sector the filing published in the fourth quarter of 2021 which exhibited the greatest focus on industrial automation came from Moog. Of the document's 1,138 sentences, 17 (1.5%) referred to industrial automation.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on industrial automation and how important the issue is considered within the aerospace and defence sector, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning industrial automation more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into industrial automation have been successes or failures.

In the last quarter, companies in the aerospace and defence sector based in the United States were most likely to mention industrial automation with 0.25% of sentences in company filings referring to the issue. In contrast, companies with their headquarters in Western Europe mentioned industrial automation in just 0.16% of sentences.