Industry Talk

Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

Harnessing the potential benefits of Robotic Process Automation

Data is becoming an indispensable part of a savvy senior executive’s toolkit to inform and back up strategic decisions. In response to such growth in the availability of detailed, high value metrics, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has emerged as a tool for teams to harness the power of this data and make cost and operational efficiencies.

Based on the notion of software robots, or Artificial Intelligence (AI) workers, RPA can help transform manual processing work in purchase to pay (P2P), core reporting and inventory management.

Much like any human worker, such robots occupy their own ‘virtual workstation’, using keyboard and mouse controls to execute automations. Normally these all take place in a virtual environment and not on a physical screen, interpreting the display electronically instead.

The real benefit of RPA is that it can help eliminate low value, repetitive tasks, freeing up time for staff to spend on higher value work. This is especially true with those associated with P2P transactional processing. A lot of work can now be automated through intelligent application macros, changing the speed, detail and quality of the business’s data reporting performance. RPA implementation has also shown dramatic cost savings when compared to traditional non-RPA solutions.

As with similar advancements in technology, one of the primary concerns surrounding RPA is that it will result in large scale employee lay-offs. In some cases this may be inevitable, however studies by London School of Economics have suggested that if RPA is deployed in the correct manner, more efficient work could be achieved by existing staff members operating alongside new technology, without the need for redundancies.

Going forward, suppliers of enterprise and P2P software may treat RPA process tasks as an activity equivalent to a person, and expect to charge a license fee for that activity. To be fully prepared for this and to minimise potentially costly disruption, it is strongly recommended that companies build RPA protection provisions into contracts.

As is the case with any innovative technology and business concepts, it will pay off for businesses to do their research, consult specialist advisors and begin planning well before any processes are actually launched. RPA has the potential to bring great cost savings and time efficiencies to companies across the board, but senior teams will have to put internal communications and contract protections first to ensure the roll-out is successful and well-received.