In this post, we’re going to be looking at what robotic process automation (RPA) is, how it’s used, how it can help in the business environment, and what industries the technology is used in. L.A.C. Conveyors & Automation offer robotic and automation capabilities that can help your business excel, get in touch with an expert member of the team for a consultation for a bespoke solution to your business.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic process automation is the technology allowing anyone to configure computer software to emulate and integrate the actions of humans interacting with digital systems to execute an automated business process. Robotic process automation is the process of processing a transaction, manipulating big data, triggering responses, and thus communicating with other digital systems.
Investopedia describes RPA as ‘software that can be easily programmed to do basic tasks across applications just as human workers do. The software robot can be taught a workflow with multiple steps and applications, such as taking received forms, sending a receipt message, checking the form for completeness, filing the form in a folder and updating a spreadsheet with the name of the form, the date filed, and so on. RPA software is designed to reduce the burden of repetitive, simple tasks on employees.’
How it works
A software developer produces a list of actions to automate the task the robots and/or system need to do by coding the actions in through using internal application programming interfaces (APIs) or a certain scripting language. However, robotic process automation systems have become smart enough to watch the user performing that task in the applications graphical user interface (GUI), and then carry out the automated tasks by mirroring how the user did the task. This has become a big factor in allowing businesses being able to implement the process and use automation products without having to need a software developer or API.
The tools used in robotic process automation allow data to be handled in and between multiple applications, for example, receiving an email with an invoice attached, this system can distinguish the attachment as an invoice, extract the data, and then put that into a bookkeeping system.
What processes can robotic process automation automate?
Within a business environment, robotic process automation can automate various workflow tasks, calculate complex processes with ease, invoice processing, data entry, payroll, sales orders, and information regarding staff, such as onboarding and employment terminations.
For example, in sales, it can update your CRM automatically with new leads for the selected salesperson and in HR it can automate the payroll which can be quite helpful when you have a large multinational business.
RPA isn’t just used for software applications to manage internal processes, it can also be used to predict and help throughput of businesses manufacturing process. For example, it can register an order placed which can then be automatically sent to the corresponding operator on the manufacturing line and therefore it can speed up how quickly the order gets manufactured which in turn speeds up the number of items going through the system and the number of customers the business can serve.
When robots on a manufacturing line or a packaging line are involved, the software can send the automated task lists over to a robot to automate the selected processes. this is where robotics and automation come in handy to speed up a businesses operations and it becomes a fully automated procedure.
RPA might be used as part of a system where the software automates an internal process such as a new order or delivery code, the product would start being manufactured or get sent to be packaged, the product might be checked over by vision and checking systems, that information would be relayed back to further improve the next order, and then sent on to the next section or delivery. As you can imagine this helps speed up the internal processes as well as the manufacturing, assembling, packaging, or delivery aspects.
Evolution of the technology
RPA is a form of automation that has come into existence and derived from screen scraping. However, this technology is a significant evolution of the screen scraping technique as new software platforms are constantly emerging that are increasingly improved with learning, they’re more resilient, increasingly scalable, and more reliable. This makes the technology more viable for use in large enterprises and easier to integrate into current systems.
With the above comes improved quality and reputation while decreasing the risks of using the technology in businesses of a global scale. It allows businesses to automate tasks which mean less people needed to operate the process who can work on another task, thus improving efficiency and decreasing costs in terms of money and time.
Implementation of robotic process automation and automation, in general, has shown significant upside for a businesses throughput with significantly reduced costs when compared to other solutions. You can see an example of this by reading how L.A.C. managed to increase Hermes returns capacity by 50% at a national distribution hub by using automation.
Advantages of robotic process automation
When you’re asking the question ‘what is robotic process automation?’, it’s good to know what advantages the technology can bring to a business. Robotic process automation can really help businesses and offer value across various industries as Software AG notes in their 2018 report.
There are various figures for how well robotic process automation can help a business with digital transformation and getting certain tasks automated. The Workforce notes that you can expect a first-year ROI of 300% and, depending on the number of processes you will be using the tool for can reduce the number of full-time employees by up to three people.
Inc42 indicate that the RPA market will reach $2.9bn by 2021 and that the growth can be majorly attributed to how robotic process automation streamlines and enhances legacy processes and results in high returns on investment.
Here are some examples of how robotic process automation can help your business:
- Cost savings
- Process improvements
- Frees up resources to higher-value functions
- Improved productivity
- Improved internal processes:
- Better quality service
- Improved customer service/ experience
- Improved compliance
- Does not replace existing IT systems
- Improved data to use for insights and analysis
What are RPA tools?
Medium explains that ‘robotic process tools are essential for automation of the monotonous back-office processes.’ Within businesses, there will be a number of tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming and due to this, there is a larger chance for error due to repetition. The tool allows for tasks that were going to be executed on the software by employees can now be done and automated by a bot.
There’s plentiful of efficient RPA tools on the market that has different features and USPs, such as cost, user-friendliness, scalability, and industry size. These tools include; Another Monday, UiPath, Pega, and Contextor. If you’re considering using a tool and implementing RPA into your business, check out the different reviews on a number of tools including the above on Software Testing Help, Guru 99, and Medium.
Deployment of RPA
The way a robot works is similar to a way a human works, however, everything the robots are doing is all in a virtual space, not a physical location, unless the software is relaying the information to a robot to automate a task.
The robots use keyboards and mouse controls to take actions and execute automation tasks, just like humans would, except you can’t see these as they usually happen in a virtual unseen environment. The time you can see them is when you have robots from the likes of ABB, Fanuc, Kawasaki, and Kuka on a working line and they are being sent automation tasks from the software.
However, it’s important to make sure you have the right people or processes in place to see out the deployment of Robotic Process Automation and it’s the capability to automate tasks, as, like anything, things can go wrong and can be costly in money and time if the correct people or processes aren’t in place. That or it can just be a waste of time in an effort for something that might not have been properly considered.
What industries use robotic process automation?
Robotic process automation can be used across various sectors due to its diverse application and ability to read data sectors, providing a useful output for a business. We’ve highlighted the key industries below that use robotic process automation technologies within their sector.
- Healthcare – RPA can be utilised tremendously within the administrative side of the healthcare sector for patient scheduling, data entry, data management and many more activities. RPA software can help the administrative side of healthcare run smoothly, keeping patients informed with wait times and cancellations – leading to increasing positive patient experiences.
- Retail – The offline retail landscape has reported experiencing stagnated growth, in conjunction with online sales booming, RPA technologies can be utilised in the retail sector to boost productivity, improve the overall customer experience and deliver accurate results for the user.
- Telecommunications – With telecommunication suppliers usually relying on extensive data sets, employ thousands of staff and are likely to encounter many hurdles when retrieving specific data in an efficient manner. RPA can provide telecom companies with improved data communication, increased data security and a significant reduction in costs over the long-term.
- Banking – With a vast amount of data generated from the banking industry, including daily transactions, deposits and withdrawals, the banking sector use RPA software to reduce human error and create transparency within the industry.
- Insurance – Due to heavily dealing with various back-office processes to handle claims and creating policies they result in repeating many businesses practices. To streamline their processes, many Insurance companies are automating their workflows with RPA by completing activities, such as; manual data input and compliance maintenance.
- Manufacturing – The application of RPA within the manufacturing industry can be used by both SMEs, as well as large corporate manufacturing firms. Robotic automotive technology can help to marry up daily activities, such as lead generation, quoting and an overview of accounts a lot simpler which can strengthen the overall supply chain of the business.
Does RPA always work?
The process works well when properly applied and there is a clearly defined process in the business to automate. The problems arise or the ROI isn’t visible when companies use automation but don’t automate the right processes or tasks or get lost in trying to reverse engineer the process.
You can avoid the failures by ensuring you need the systems in place to automate the selected tasks. Businesses can avoid robotic process automation failure by identifying, optimising, and prioritising processes that need to be automated to increase efficiency and ROI.
Do you need to automate your work processes?
Contact L.A.C. Conveyors & Automation if you’re looking to automate your business processes and you can have a consultation on the best way your business would benefit from automating processes. You can see their customer success stories by looking at their case studies.