Manufacturing companies are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline operations, reducing costs by automating tedious tasks. This frees employees to focus on higher value work.
What is robotic process automation?
RPA is an application of software robots. These are governed by business logic and structured inputs, aimed at automating business processes. A manufacturing company can configure the RPA software robots to capture and interpret applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other data systems. RPA can be used things as simple as automating a response to an email to deploying hundreds of software robots, each configured to automate a separate activity in an ERP platform.
Because Robotic Process Automation replicates the inputting behaviour of a worker, using the same software and user interfaces, there is none of the large-scale disruption associated with a technology roll out. A company may have spent years selecting and deploying software in their business. On top of this layers of security to protect the business. Robotic Process Automation allows for all this to remain in place. It does not need the opening up of systems to third-party APIs or the resulting potential security risks.
The ease of adopting Robotic Process Automation allows for focus on immediate benefits. These include cost reduction, operational efficiencies and reducing errors. RPA automates existing systems rather than replacing them.
The IT resource needed for an RPA rollout is low as there are no new IT platforms or services to be deployed. And the benefits are faster to be realised. Which makes Robotic Process Automation deployments easy to justify economically.
What are the benefits of RPA for manufacturing companies?
In our experience, there is a very strong case for the use of RPA software robots in Manufacturing. This is because of the masses of data agencies need to manage to be competitive and compliant; there is a lot of value software robots will add at both front and back end.
Here are some more specific examples.
- Purchase order creation:
The manual process for purchase order creation can be daunting for midsize to large organizations dealing with multiple categories of products. With the help of RPA solutions, the entire process of PO creation can be automated enabling 100% accurate and speedy results. The process is automated based on a rule-based workflow that takes care of extracting data from independent systems, seeking email approval from concerned departmental heads and processing the request of PO generation.
- Inventory management:
The process of inventory control is of vital importance and lies at the core of the supply chain management. Real-time monitoring of inventory levels is required to ensure that demand can be met. RPA helps in automating various functions such as monitoring inventory, generating notifications about the stock levels, and reordering products when the levels go below a set threshold. This can be done with minimal human intervention.
As an added bonus, implementing RPA automatically results in the creation of a detailed audit trail. Live dashboards and reports also provide information about business patterns and internal workings that can reveal potential bottlenecks. These insights can be utilized to remove the disruptions within the supply chain for process optimization and improvement.
- Vendor communication:
In the manufacturing industry, the day-to-day communication between vendors, customers, and internal workforce requires a large amount of manual effort. E.g., the customer service representative handles various queries including the status of the goods shipped. The representative typically finds the email communication, tracks the shipment status in the ERP system, sends an update to the customer, and closes the case.
RPA, can take over the majority of the process by opening the email, reading the text, downloading the attachments if required, logging into the ERP portal, determining the status of the shipment, replying to the customer, and moving on to the next customer email.
Another RPA software Advantage For manufacturers is that it’s quick to deploy and they do not have to revamp existing infrastructure and systems to improve their production efficiency. By using this software, you can automate how all systems communicate and reduce the drain on staff / improve efficiency.
- Customer complaints logged and dealt with quicker leaving team members to handle escalated problems
- Data cleansing bread and butter for bots, churning through structured data and cleaning at up to five times the speed of a human
What are the pitfalls of RPA?
Installing software robots bots has taken a lot longer and is more complex than most organisations have hoped it would be. Expectations have been set too high with people thinking they will be able to automate 100% of the processes. And far too often the projects have failed because they have been scoped out by inexperienced staff. This leads to the selection of the wrong technology and the desired outcomes never being achievable.
These issues are avoided by working with a consultancy who not only understand Robotic Process Automation but also have experience in the manufacturing industry. While there is an overlap across all industries, manufacturing has its own peculiarities which need to be accounted for when specifying, deploying and managing a Robotic Process Automation solution.
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