Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is the use of software tools or modern-day programming languages to partially or fully automate human activities that are manual, rules-based, and repetitive. Below are some great use cases and good candidates for RPA in manufacturing companies.
Bill of Materials
One of the most important artifacts in the manufacturing process is the Bill of Materials (BoM). It includes the various raw materials, components, and sub-components that go into the manufacturing of a specific product. These documents/artifacts are necessary so employees know which items to purchase, how much to purchase, and when to purchase these resources.
If an error occurs in interpreting the BoM, the cost to the manufacturer could be substantial. RPA can assist in the BoM process by enabling manufacturing companies to:
- eliminate spreadsheets to manage BoM systems and reduce the need for paper
- set up automatic alerts for changes in the system for digitized communication
- strengthen supply chain procedures
- enhance regulatory compliance
- access real-time process monitoring and analytics
Customer Support and Service Desk
Regardless of industry, providing great customer service is one of the keys to success. RPA can be helpful in the front office for enhanced communication with the customer. Typically, call centers and service desks use many different systems and applications, often undertaking a high volume of low complexity repetitive tasks. Additionally, post-call follow up, such as updating records and recording closure activity can take almost as much time as the call itself, thus negatively impacting agent productivity. Because of this, it is an area that is a good candidate for RPA solutions.
For instance, a large industrial manufacturer had a diverse set of legacy business applications. Handling over 1,500 calls a month, a significant amount of time was being spent by the first-line support team, executing user administration tasks. The average time for each incident was almost six minutes, as the agent had to navigate various systems to access, manipulate, and update information.
Delivered within two weeks, the automated solution provided through various bots was able to complete tasks in less than 50 seconds – an 83% reduction in execution time.
Along with this improved customer service, the volume of support resources required has been significantly reduced, and many support technicians have subsequently been redeployed, producing tangible cost efficiencies.
Data migration is the process of moving data from old systems to newly-implemented systems. This is a normal occurrence in the manufacturing industry for a number of reasons (updating programs, switching tools, acquiring other businesses, and more). RPA is the perfect choice to assist with migration of data. Even when it comes to small needs data migration time and costs can be reduced with proper planning and execution of RPA.
Administration and Reporting
Manufacturing is characterized by the need for constant administration and a large number of reports generated on numerous indicators and for different periods of time. The various processes of report generation can be a burden for many employees: it requires a lot of time with precise concentration to avoid mistakes. Since most basic reports are rule-based and call for the same actions time after time, an RPA tool can be used to optimize this process. With an RPA, you can set when reports need to be processed, what data should it use, how to visualize it, and more.
Invoice processing is an exhausting, manual, time-consuming process because it involves multiple procedures by different people to check and approve items. This makes the process prone to mistakes due to accidental misclicks, inaccuracy, or inattentiveness. Software robots, in this case, can assist in reading documents, automatically sending the invoices to the next concerned department for approval, entering and updating invoice information into the system.
Logistics Data Automation
Most manufacturing companies either have a logistics department or an over-worked individual responsible for all logistics (transportation of products) for the company. There are a number of use cases for RPA in the logistics function, including:
Automate Shipment Scheduling and Tracking
Automate manual shipping tasks — from the initial pick-up request to checking and reporting shipment status between internal systems and portals. RPA can extract shipment details from incoming emails, log jobs in your scheduling systems and provide pick-up times in customer/carrier portals, all with robots.
Eliminate Manual Processes for Capturing Loads and Rate Look-Ups
Automatically perform rate look-ups from multimodal carriers and 3PLs. Eliminate manually copying data from load boards and emails into internal systems and then copying it back into B2B portals to report shipment status.
Speed Invoicing by Integrating Systems with Customer Portals
Eliminate re-keying, cutting-and-pasting and manually attaching data to invoices. Automatically extract shipping data, attach scanned purchase orders and invoices, and update customer portals in seconds, rather than days.
Enhance Customer Responsiveness with Automated Order/Inventory Tracking
Leverage software robots to regularly query carrier tracking systems/websites and retrieve proof of delivery information. Link the data to the original order record in your warehouse management system for better tracking and faster responses to customer inquiries.
Gain Insights to Improve Forecasting and Logistics Planning
Obtain better information to create new opportunities, innovate supply chain processes and achieve greater financial success. Leverage information in near real-time to adjust demand forecasting and logistics planning. Identify trends and patterns in supply and demand, weather conditions, and how those trends impact delivery.
These are just a few examples of use cases that are most common in manufacturing.