How to work more efficiently with Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation
Robotic Process Automation

This case study shows which criteria you should definitely know for the successful use of Robotic Process Automation

A manufacturer of machine systems and special machines ensures more efficient work processes in the company with Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Together with the management consultancy ROI-Efeso, it determines areas of application for RPA in eight business areas. After only three months, the software bots complete 14 processes independently and reliably. You can find out how the experts from ROI-Efeso proceeded here.
The case study: initial situation and measures in brief
Starting position:

⦁ Data maintenance and information exchange in different formats cost time and generate errors
⦁ The process landscapes in operations, quality management, controlling and other business areas are to be redesigned.

Method:

⦁ Determination of fields of application and tasks for software bots (Robot Process Automation) including detailed recording and development in all departments involved
⦁ Immediate use after testing in practice

Solution approach:

⦁ Test phase with the real and the automated process running in tandem
⦁ Calculation of the ROI of the software bot for the sum of all use cases

Robotic Process Automation: What software bots can do

For work tasks that are very repetitive, time-consuming and error-prone, there are now smart technology assistants: In the context of digitization and Industry 4.0, software bots take on a wide range of tasks in the operations area.
Under the term Robotic Process Automation, they provide relief for simple but time-consuming work processes. In this case study, one objective was to centralize bookkeeping from five locations at the company’s headquarters without hiring additional staff. Instead, bots should take over tasks such as invoicing, dunning or the preparation of data from different sources for reporting from the first day of the changeover. The focus in the selection was on regular activities which are on the one hand so specialized that their automation in systems like SAP is not worthwhile – but which on the other hand tie up considerable time resources. 

Industry 4.0: Award from ROI-Efeso and the magazine Production

Digital assistance systems, data analytics, artificial intelligence or machine learning are changing the value creation processes in the manufacturing industry at breakneck speed. Companies that manage to successfully integrate these digitization technologies, tools and systems into their value creation processes are among the pacesetters of Industry 4.0. Together with the trade newspaper PRODUKTION, it has been honouring ROI-Efeso with the Industry 4.0 Award since 2013 – one of the most important benchmarks for digitization projects and Industry 4.0 best cases.
The second objective and special challenge of the project was to expand the change from manual to RPA-controlled work processes in just a few months to include operations, R&D, production and logistics. Together with ROI-Efeso, the company quickly implemented the appropriate bots. Just two weeks after the start of the project, the first bot was already saving half an hour a day with a previously manual inventory correction of shortfalls in SAP.

Testing and deploying

The project kicked off with an information event at which all employees involved got to know the deployment options of RPA. ROI-Efeso explained the limits of the technology very clearly – after all, those involved should be able to develop a realistic picture of the effort involved in introducing RPA to its benefit.
After this kick-off, the project team gathered ideas and suggestions on work processes that the employees believe could adopt RPA tools. In the days that followed, it selected 14 suitable processes from over 40 ideas in one-on-one discussions, and a detailed analysis was then carried out on each of them.

Industry 4.0 – An RFID module guides you through the Future Factory – Source: ROI-Efeso

On the basis of this knowledge, the project team created an automation concept for all areas involved, in which it prioritized the most attractive processes. The selection of the RPA software suitable for the company’s requirements and the assignment of authorizations were completed within two weeks in coordination with the IT department, so that implementation of the identified work processes could start immediately afterwards.
The project team now brought the RPA into everyday life – department by department, process by process – always via the detailed recording, development, and test stations. In the test phase, the previous and the automated process ran simultaneously according to the “tandem” principle. In this way, errors could be corrected or hurdles overcome without delays in day-to-day business. Once handed over, every work process ultimately ran through the RPA, which immediately relieved the workload.

If you hate it – automate it!

In the project, three experiences proved to be particularly valuable for the implementation of RPA projects:

  1. Identify “processes in the middle”! The maxim “If you hate it – automate it!” Is a good starting point for RPA projects. It is important to classify the intended use correctly: Which use cases are so simple that the programming effort for a system adaptation is not worthwhile – but automation? Software bots are intended for precisely these processes in the middle. In sum, this is where the greatest leverage for savings lies. 
  2. Exploit software bots 24/7! The license model of most RPA providers is designed in such a way that a software bot is available around the clock on every work and public holiday. As with employees, payment is made per bot. If the bot is not busy with tasks, the invoice is still due. Therefore, you should constantly look for other, suitable work tasks for the bot.
  3. Make your expectations realistic! RPA is not a ready-made software that takes care of all extensions independently after purchase. If the process that the software bot has taken over changes, this change must be adapted. This should be clearly communicated in RPA projects in order to achieve realistic expectations of the possible uses of the bots.

4 consultant tips for your successful RPA use!

⦁ Operate targeted stakeholder communication! An RPA introduction is only successful if it is (pro) actively driven forward by the specialist department – in cooperation with IT.
⦁ Clearly define roles and responsibilities! Determine at an early stage who will monitor the bots, make adjustments or pay attention to compliance requirements.
⦁ Look beyond the existing rules and limits! RPA is a technology that helps with process optimization – but only for those who are able or willing to think process-oriented.
⦁ Build up internal RPA competencies! Nobody knows the processes as well as your employees. You should therefore create a Center of Excellence with internal consultants for the (further) development of RPA as well as for support with its application.

Careful testing saves expensive mistakes

In this as well as in other RPA projects by ROI-Efeso, controlling the previous manual process alongside the new automated process proved to be an important success factor. This is the only way to compare whether the desired results can be achieved. This also makes special cases and sources of error visible that were not yet present in the process recording. With this start-up support for each process, the RPA introduction takes a little longer – the transferred bot then works more reliably than with an implementation that is too fast. And that in turn saves time and money for troubleshooting later.

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