“Do more with less, achieve better results with less.”
If this phrase sounds too hard to believe, think again, after all we are living in a world of Industrial Revolution 4.0. The revolution that is characterized by digital transformation of manufacturing/production and related industries and value creation processes.
Smart factories do not necessarily mean the ones equipped with 3D printing facilities or devices connected by IoT. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is also one of the innovative ways that manufacturers are leveraging to enhance productivity, lower costs and increase customer satisfaction. Industry experts predict that by 2022, around 85% of large organizations will have deployed some form of RPA.
In fact, RPA acts as a catalyst for Industry 4.0. Why?
Let’s get into the details.
What is RPA?
RPA is the use of bots or software applications to perform monotonous tasks without human intervention. RPA’s use spans across different sectors to automate rule-based activities like extracting structured and semi-structured data from documents, data entry, reading and responding to emails, scraping browsers, processing invoices, and more.
What does Robotic Process Automation mean to manufacturers?
RPA helps bring agility in process and long-term cost savings; it facilitates collaboration between man and machine, reducing errors and wastage, among a plethora of other benefits.
McKinsey reveals that at least 87% of manual and routine jobs carried out by manufacturing workers are automatable.
Let’s look at with an example:
Consider a mobile phone company Spire. Spire’s repairing unit receives thousands of requests for replacing broken parts. In a manual environment, the requests are combined with a traditional, shared global supply chain management system. Annie, who works as a Production Planner, downloads the consolidated requests and generates excel data sheets. The purchasing department again downloads this and sorts out the shortage materials and sends them back to Annie’s team via emails. Finally, the production orders are created after rounds of rigorous verification.
This whole gamut at Spire takes a long time with major issues like manual transfer of data, extensive matching and sorting works, inconsistent material master in multiple systems, all leading to inaccuracy and delayed production.
Implementing an RPA solution can help in streamlining the process. The bot can download the material list, match the data between both the sheets, generate the list of shortage components and create the production order. If any discrepancies occur due to disconnected systems, RPA bot instantly alerts the concerned representatives to act upon. The representatives can then look into the corrective actions.
What RPA bot brings in?
Benefits of robotic process automation in manufacturing industries include
- Increased productivity and standardization in process
- Data accuracy
- No human errors in sorting and working on excel
- As low-skilled tasks are eliminated, there is a higher level of job satisfaction
- Reduced transaction time
- Happy customers
- Increased go-to-market speed
Challenges in manufacturing industry and how RPA can help
Below are some of the challenges that more often manufacturing companies face, and RPA’s solution to each of these.
Inventory management is a daunting task. With manufacturers already feeling the sting of the supply chain disruption amidst the outbreak, an effective solution for inventory management is definitely needed.
The major concerns are:
- Handling excess or obsolete stocks
- Lack of visibility to the available items
- Absence of a centralized inventory system
- Inventory controls and loss-prevention strategies for perishable and fragile stocks
- Labour-intensive processes
- Low-tech standard operating procedures and lack of expertise.
RPA bot makes it easier, transforms the experience. The software monitors inventory levels, generates notifications when the levels go down and re-order products when the level is below the threshold. It further helps
- Automate order processing and generate receipts
- Provide real-time information on inventory levels
- Predict forecast for demand and supply
- Validate vendors, eliminating the need for analyzing quotes, raising requests, etc.
- Communicating with all the involved parties seamlessly
Bill of Materials
If there is one thing that owes to the success of a product life cycle along with its financial management, it has to be bill of materials (BOM). BOM is a central, master document that contains all the detailed information about a product’s parts, specifications and the corresponding financial data. Even the slightest of errors can create a significant impact on the production lines leading to reputational loss.
As BOM management extends to – engineering, quality, purchasing, and manufacturing, it is bound to experience a frictionless process. For example, any incomplete document for part specifications can cause a delay or re-work. And in the new version there may be additional changes if left overlooked could create havoc among the departments blaming each other for errors.
Keeping it up to the speed of the product life cycle, facilitating collaboration among the stakeholders, global traceability, are some of the major issues.
RPA can help this unit achieve better data accuracy much faster, and product formation can be completed on time. Making the system more agile, manufacturers can get rid of overstocking, delay in consignment and increased product cost.
While handling massive amounts of supplier queries, what if your teams miskeyed important information into the master database? Or does your Account payable manager find it difficult to track invoice pending approvals? Traditional invoice processing that is paper-oriented is an onerous task prone to flaws and human errors.
Consider a manufacturing unit that processes nearly 10,000 supplier invoices. Data from every invoice has to be manually extracted, validated against the client’s information in the company’s database, generate a unique identification number, review and then process the payment.
When a RPA solution is adopted, the entire process can be automated. With natural language processing and OCR capabilities, RPA bots can skim through the documents, read invoices, input data, automate error reconciliation and auto-respond to emails, and generate invoices. It also generates exceptions wherever human intervention is required. The bot then sends detailed reports of every processed and unprocessed invoice.
The Economist states, “data is the oil of the digital era”, and the statement holds true to the manufacturing industry. As the industry is fast-adopting IoT-based equipment, leading to more data consumption. In such a case any flaws in data migration could result in high repercussions. Data migration is the process of moving data and other business elements from a physical storage or a legacy system to a cloud, or upgrade of an ERP system or any new modernization effort.
With a variety of source systems, limited downtime where operations may need to be run full-time and data quality issues, data migration is indeed a bigger challenge.
A highly flexible solution, designed to integrate with a variety of systems, interfaces and data formats, RPA technology is a goldmine for data migration in manufacturing. RPA can discover any inconsistencies in data, create log files, automate data validation, rectify any errors and track the process accurately.
Customer service, one of the most challenging departments that may not always be right in the manufacturers wheelhouse. The changing customer landscape, emerging channels like chatbots and social media, first-time fix rates, serving multiple customers at the same time, several organizations are facing a hard battle.
By automating highly repetitive tasks, RPA can enhance the operational efficiency of customer service teams. RPA solutions when integrated with chatbots can help customers with first-level response and a self-service platform that could reduce the waiting time and representative’s efforts significantly.
As opposed to RPA robbing off people’s jobs, RPA is a key enabler for digital transformation initiatives in the manufacturing industry. Right from optimizing the core operations to enhancing quality, RPA acts as an ally to manufacturers helping them realize tangible ROI in less time.
Even though robotic process automation helps the industry abundantly, on the flip side, finding a reliable technology partner to guide you with the solution that best fits your simple and complex processes is key. And this is where Vuram steps in. Having a team of experts, experienced in a range of industries, Vuram can work with you at every step of your RPA journey and build solutions that can accelerate business performance. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org for starting your RPA journey.