The early adopters of automation were the companies in the manufacturing industry, implementing mechanical robots into processing lines to perform daily production activities in the plant. While the robots are effectively helping in the assembly lines, the companies still face hurdles in handling operational procedures in back-office operations.

To achieve automated efficiency in areas other than the production line, the manufacturing sector is increasingly adopting Robotic Process Automation to improve back-office processes like payment and refunds processing; reconciling of forecast vs actual expenditures; customs import processing; the generation of commercial finance contracts; and many more.

What is RPA?

Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is a software robot that is integrated with business processes to automate certain activities, minimize human errors, and maximize productivity. It eliminates the need for employees to perform repetitive tasks by integrating software that performs the same set of steps as the employee.

The robot is designed to perform routine tasks across multiple applications and systems within an existing workflow. It performs specific tasks to automate the transfer, editing, reporting and/or saving of data. For example, RPA can automatically collect data from multiple sources, perform a data manipulation such as applying data formulas in Excel and then export or save the information to a readily available location.

What are the applications of RPA?

Below is a chart that lists several types of tasks by the back-office department that can be automated in most organizations:

HR  New employee forms  Employee termination documentation   Employee benefits 
       
Finance / Accounting  AR/AP tracking  Financial reporting   Vendor management 
       
IT  New user setup  Software requesting   Inventory tracking 
       
Sales / Marketing  Sales campaign email management   Outreach campaigns   CRM automation 
       
Others  Executive analysis reports  Regulatory compliance documentation  Inventory management 

Consider a process where the finance department needs to work with IT and sales to request multiple data sets, get input, and share the results. Rather than emailing those departments to pull the same data set every quarter to develop an Excel-based report, an RPA solution automatically performs the data pull and generates the entire Excel report. This not only saves time and effort across the various departments, but also enables the finance team to spend more time doing meaningful analysis of the reports and develop projections and deeper insights.

Use Cases of RPA in the Manufacturing Industry

Bill of Materials (BOM)

BOM is an important document in the manufacturing industry. It is a comprehensive record of materials and components required for producing or manufacturing a new product. The document gives employees details of what, when, where, as well as how to buy in the advancement of new products.

RPA bots with their ability to perform error free task function can complete the process with precision and in a timely manner.

Customer Support and Service Desk

Manual customer request handling can lead to errors and delay the response time, leaving customers unsatisfied. When RPA is employed, companies can reach multiple data sets stored at various locations from a specific location which allows the company to aid its customers better. An integrated chatbot application can play a significant role as a CSM solution.

Automating Administration and Reporting

Administration and reporting tasks are laborious but they can be easily automated.

  • Recording action items and meeting minutes
  • Recording attendance
  • Responding to FAQ emails
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Ordering supplies
  • Predicting computer problems
  • Creating and filing invoices

Invoice processing starts with receiving an invoice and ends when the payment is completed and recorded. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a more efficient way to process invoices.

All required reports for providing a clear and effective portrait of production can be developed precisely and timely through the aid of bots.

Data migration

Shifting data from the old to new system is a significant task in the manufacturing industry and there is a big chance of error. RPA can reduce the possibility of such errors and will be productive in performance.

Inventory Management

Automated emailing, filing invoicing and dispatching can improve operational efficiency, cost reduction, and enhance interaction with both suppliers and consumers. RPA-based automation provides inventory managers with real-time data about the inventory levels so that they can monitor these levels and make better decisions.

Regulatory compliance

RPA operations are transparent and accessible for analysis. This makes it simpler to make modifications to adjust according to compliance and regulations.

Management of IT Operations

Managing IT infrastructure and operations is a challenge. By using RPA, IT teams can have better visibility into the IT infrastructure and operations, thereby enabling IT teams to strategically manage IT resources without requiring a manual process.

Proactive Risk Management

RPA can provide organizations with proactive and fully automated audits for business processes. Automated workflows can predict risk and alert stakeholders of problems that may arise.

Benefits of RPA in manufacturing

RPA bots can handle rule-based repetitive tasks and minimize the need for human interference. In manufacturing the can:

  • Decrease time and human labor spent of routine tasks
  • Decrease the go-to-market time
  • Increase data quality and minimize process errors by reducing human interference
  • Maintain an audit trail
  • Error-free, consistent results
  • Employees can be utilized for higher-value work
  • Increased job satisfaction (not spending time doing repetitive, low-value work)
  • Faster, more predictable delivery timing
  • Documented trail of work performed
  • Identification of anomalies or other red flags
  • Cost savings
  • Reduced wastage and mistakes
  • Increased focus and efficiency
  • Enhanced back-office operations

Conclusion

It is the appropriate time for manufacturing domains to integrate the next wave of automation beyond their core processes and in non-core segments with RPA and enjoy a reduction in their expenses as well as a productivity enhancement. It will certainly be an advantage for manufacturing enterprises that wish to unlock their full potential in aspects like management, productivity, and administration, to consider the prospect of executing RPA solutions in their operating areas.

Syed Waqas

Author Syed Waqas

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