For decades, the Robotic Process Automation in manufacturing industry has used physical robots to assemble, test and package their products. These robots help in streamlining the assembly line but the industry still struggles to keep back-office processes fast and simple. Primarily due to unskilled labor, time-intensive processes, obsolete supply chain management systems and frequently changing regulatory requirements.
In order to overcome these pain points, manufacturing companies are turning to business process automation tools to streamline and optimize complex back-office operations such as vendor communication, inventory management, procurement, payment processing, and report generation.
Robotic Process Automation technology has emerged as a key enabler for industrial process automation.
A 2017 study by global technology research firm Information Services Group suggests that 72% of companies are expected to adopt robotic process automation to minimize costs, reduce average transaction handling time, increase productivity, and improve compliance management. According to the ISG study, the automation technology is allowing for a 43% reduction in required resources for order-to-cash processes, 34% for invoice processing, and 32% for vendor management.
These are the significant benefits for any organization, especially for those who are concerned with the timely and quality output from their core business processes.
The manufacturing industry has seen the industrial automation empowered by ‘Physical Robots’. But there is a need for disruptive technology that can help manufacturers to focus more on product innovation and core strengths instead of day-to-day repetitive tasks that are critical but mundane in nature.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) enables intelligent automation of rule-based operations to enhance process execution speed and accuracy. Further, RPA solutions are easy to implement and do not require coding skills. RPA also seamlessly integrates with existing legacy systems without costly and time-consuming software development.
Companies can get started with a pilot project by choosing a specific set of operations and can observe tangible and measurable results within weeks of implementation.
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Though RPA can automate a range of operations across the enterprise, it is important to identify RPA eligible processes and its scope of implementation. Below is the list of attributes that make a task or activity likely to benefit from RPA.
|Task Attributes||Detail understanding of each attribute|
|Rule-Based||Activities that can be completed by following well-defined rules|
|High volume||The ROI potential of RPA is higher as the transaction volume increases|
|Low exceptions||Tasks with limited variations and fewer exceptions|
|Constant and well-defined process flow||Mature tasks with well-defined workflow and that stay relatively unchanged|
|Low system change||Processes that require limited or no change to existing systems|
|Organized data||Activities that require working with structured data and readable electronic inputs (Excel, Word, PDFs, etc.)|
Operations such as extracting and updating data from multiple enterprise-grade applications such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, third-party regulatory portals, independent systems of vendors and logistics companies are highly time-consuming and prone to errors. It can take weeks to complete these tasks and also typically requires significant manual labor since all these systems are often not well integrated.
RPA bots can fill the integration gap by automating such operations within the existing systems.
Problem: The end-to-end process of setting up a field network involved various manual operations related to purchase management, timely status updates to vendors, invoice processing etc. The key challenge was to complete the whole process with speed and security, where the data was collected and updated from independent systems.
Solution: Nividous first standardized the end-to-end process within the core ERP system and then enabled process automation to RPA eligible operations. This helped in eliminating third-party access to their legacy systems making it secure and error-free. Nividous Bots performed outlook, excel and web automation to reduce the average process handling time by 50%.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the areas within manufacturing that can benefit from RPA to understand the potential scope of process automation for such operations.
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.
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.
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, however, can take over the entire 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.
The entire process requires no human intervention unless there are some exceptions.
Such automation can eliminate up to 65% of the manual effort, enabling employees to resolve more customer queries in less time.
In summary, RPA is a key enabler for digital transformation initiatives within the manufacturing industry. Accounts payable process automation, invoice processing automation, and supply chain automation are a few of the areas where RPA can optimize the core operations and can enable improved agility, speed, and quality. Moreover, manufacturers can realize a tangible ROI within weeks.
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