Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology is gaining momentum with every passing day in this digital world. It is one of the fastest-growing subsegments according to Gartner. RPA adoption turned heads in the manufacturing sector later than the other sectors. But the industry believes that the excellence journey can be accelerated across the value chain through RPA. Automating the right processes addresses the demand fluctuations, speed to market, customer experience, efficiency, and cost saving.
3 Questions for Manufacturers to Get Started with RPA
To get started with Robotic Process Automation, manufacturers invariably have 3 questions that need to be answered:
- Which are the most mundane and error-prone process?
- Which processes should be more agile and responsive?
- Which processes will yield the highest Return-of-Investment when RPA is implemented?
Depends on the vertical, business challenges, and maturity, the answers for the above questions vary. However, the invariability is a wide range of processes that need to be targeted to automate. Critical functions such as Human Resources, Finance, Procurement, and Planning are the applicants of RPA to automate the transactional tasks.
Industry Challenges and RPA Opportunities
Robotic Process Automation can be used alone or in combination with other IT and IoT solutions to solve the challenges in the manufacturing sector. The key challenges faced by the manufacturing sector that can be addressed by RPA are:
Demand fluctuations often result in bottleneck in support function while skill development and proactive man power planning help to manage the production. The functions like logistics, warehouse, and finance can automate many tasks such as GRN preparation, dispatch note, e-way bill, invoicing, and payment processing. This can help to effectively manage demand fluctuation and improve efficiency.
Today, customers demand resolution of their queries at a faster pace. Responsiveness is the critical element while quality, cost, and delivery are the key driving factor of customer satisfaction. Robotic Process Automation is used to source data from disparate Information Technology applications in a short span and ensure faster resolution to queries. RPA bots collate data from customer service portal and identify trends with respect to defect rate, type, geography, and components to create actionable reports. Bots can also be used to source data and respond to customer queries in real time.
Planning & Scheduling
As the demand increases, the supply chains become complex. Sales and operations planning are crucial to ensure product availability, inventory management, and to enhance asset utilization. Demand capacity, stock levels, raw material availability, maintenance, priority orders, backlogs, and shipment plans can be extracted using RPA bots to update standard templates. Bots can update actual performance based on defined intervals with which planners can optimize their manufacturing plan to maximize efficiency. Bots can also be used to prepare Pos and mailing to suppliers based on the MRP run.
Reporting & Performance Monitoring
On time error free report generation by collating data across multiple departments at regular interval is a major challenge in the manufacturing industry. Most reports are complex and require hours to prepare. With RPA, manufacturers can seamlessly automate the complete report generation process to deliver timely and accurate reports cost-effectively. This helps to reduce time and avoid human errors.
Logistics Cost Control
After report generation, tracking prices of commodity, fuel, and production across multiple vendors and geographies is a key challenge in the industry. RPA can be used to collect data from different websites and combine in a required format to track raw material cost trend and procurement planning. Bots calculate trip cost for each route and update ERP based on fuel price changes. This helps logistics providers to get paid based on real time fuel prices.
Sustainability & Compliance
There are stringent requirements to reduce environmental impact of industrial operations that involves environment laws compliance and reporting. Bots can update data on Government authority websites or on company portal by automating the report generation to ensure high level of compliance and accuracy.
Supplier Queries Management
Suppliers approach buyers for multiple queries such as GRN, payment status, and rejection details. With RPA, these queries can be automated by sourcing data from disparate Information Technology applications and responding to vendors in a short span. This helps to improve the satisfaction level and save time.
Discover the Processes and Prioritize for RPA
The process discovery, prioritization, and value assessment are conducted using E3 (Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Experience) Framework. With the framework, each process is studied and key parameters are captured to determine:
- Technology, people, and upstream-downstream process dependencies
- Error-prone processes, deviations from expected result, repetitive, and manual interventions
- Repeatability degree
- Redundancy degree
- Time to response, wait, execute, and frequency
- Degree of non-IT tasks
With a detailed data collected based on the key attributes of E3 (Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Experience) framework, manufacturers should determine the degree of automation and complexity of the systems.