The Future of Work: Robotic Process Automation (Webinar Recap)
Robotic process automation (RPA) is the latest way to refer to what Automate has been doing for years—intelligently and easily automating those tedious manual processes taking up your time. In this RPA webinar, Richard Schoen explained how inefficiencies find their way into an organization’s daily processes, and what robotic process automation can do about it.
A typical breakdown of responsibility in a company involves IT handling high-value tasks, such as implementing and upgrading a new ERP system. Then, with the system in place, lower-value tasks like data entry end up in the hands of the business departments. Often, it turns out that tasks like checking order statuses or entering data have significant inefficiencies, but the business doesn’t consider it a priority to have IT streamline the process. Robotic process automation software is a way to automate these processes, and since it’s easy to use and code-free, automation tasks can be managed by those without technical expertise.
In the webinar, Richard gives an example of using RPA to streamline a process. In this example, a manufacturing company has an efficient ERP system already in place. Most of the supplier and shipment transactions are handled using EDI and everything runs smoothly—for the most part. The team discovers that there are several thousand shipment transaction exceptions that need to be checked manually every day to verify their status until the product is delivered to the customer.
The business won’t get paid if the shipments haven’t arrived at the customer site, so they have no choice but to assign two employees to spend all day checking shipment statuses. This involves going into the ERP system, looking up a shipment number, navigating to the appropriate carrier site, entering the shipment number, reviewing the status screen, and updating the ERP status for the customer order. Eight hours per day of this tedious work quickly leaves the employees unhappy and burned out.
Enter Robotic Process Automation
With robotic process automation, instead of printing a list of orders for manual processing each day, a CSV or Excel report can be generated, or the ERP database can be queried for the list directly. Next, a software robot runs through every line of the report automatically. For each line, the robot automatically reaches out to the appropriate carrier website, using a web service if one is available, and checks the shipment status. Once current shipment status has been determined, the information can be instantly updated in the ERP system. Every bit of the process is now performed by automated robots, freeing up the two employees to focus on more important work.
The Review, Manipulate, Repeat, and Get Very Bored Pattern
The above example is quite specific, so here’s another example of a typical inefficient process that is implemented across many departments in many industries: the received report processing pattern. Richard suggests you might also refer to the manual version of this task as the review, manipulate, repeat, and get very bored pattern. This is how it works:
A report is received in a CSV, text, Excel, or PDF document. The report then needs to be processed. The employee opens the report and either prints it or starts working through the data. For each piece of data, the employee performs some data entry, potentially in another system, or copies and pastes the data to a new report. When the work is complete, the original report gets saved for archival and audit purposes and the final results are uploaded elsewhere for backend processing.
With a robotic process automation solution, you can complete this entire process with just one manual step (the user saving the incoming file to an input folder) or no manual steps at all (by having the file arrive in a monitored inbox). The arrival of the file in the inbox or folder will kick off each subsequent step.
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