In the current economic climate, managers are always on the lookout for new ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations to ensure that they stay competitive. One of the most exciting areas being explored by many businesses is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The growing interest in RPA has reached a significant scale with utilization of the technology in various operations. According to Statista, spending on RPA software worldwide has grown from $0.52bn in 2017 to $1.89bn in 2021. The capabilities it promises make it the fastest-growing enterprise software in the world – so what exactly is it and how could Robotic Process Automation (RPA) boost business?
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a form of software technology that simplifies the task of building, deploying, and managing software ‘bots’ that mimic human actions when dealing with transactions, as well as understanding and using data within digital systems. The software is designed to perform quicker and more consistently than humans and has the capability to do various mundane tasks. RPA scenarios range from processing customer orders, to generating an auto-response to an email, to scheduling appointments.
Senior software analyst lead at ClaySys Technologies, Vishnu KC, states RPA is “nothing but instructing a machine to execute mundane, repetitive manual tasks.” While Marcel Shaw, federal systems engineer at Ivanti simply defines the technology as a “virtual robot copycat.”
Essentially, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can automate everyday work, and as a result, offers a lot of efficiency gains for businesses.
So what are the main benefits of RPA for businesses?
- Productivity: The programmed bots can help people work on tasks and navigate through them at a quicker pace and therefore make the employee more productive. Instead of waiting hours for one of your employees to work on an important monthly report by themselves, consider helping them with the addition of an RPA to create and finish that same report in under 30 minutes. It will provide the chance for your employee to focus on more high-value tasks. Additionally, many workers would welcome a degree of automation within the workplace. A UiPath survey revealed that 68% of global workers believed that automation would make them more productive.
- Accuracy: Employees are always at risk of making mistakes in their day-to-day tasks but with RPA these mistakes are minimised. With RPA, businesses can have more confidence in results. Reducing human error can have a beneficial effect on cost base and levels of customer satisfaction.
- Efficiency: RPA bots will be able to complete the same volume of work in less time or more volume of work at the same time as your employees. Plus, you will not need to worry about your bots taking a break for vacation or calling in sick for the day, as they will continue with the tasks they are programmed to complete at all times.
- Cost: Despite the initial payments of buying and installing the technology and the regular maintenance, RPA provides businesses with the potential for major cost savings. When calculated, an RPA robot will end up being significantly less expensive than human staffing.
- Return on investment: Within weeks, you will witness ROI as a result of implementing the software within your business compared to other IT expenditures which take months and sometimes years before ROI.
All in all, RPA simplifies workflows, making businesses more productive, flexible, and profitable while also having the capacity to boost employee satisfaction and engagement. These benefits have seen various sectors invest in the technology.
Application of RPA in Different Industries
Supply chain management: Bots can automate invoice processing by extracting data from invoices, converting the extracted data into a coordinated format, comparing invoices against orders, checking for duplicates, and updating records.
Inventory management: Bots can observe inventory levels, enlist orders, produce receipts, and track deliveries.
Data management: Bots can cleanse inventory and financial data, transfer data from older systems to newer more modern systems, schedule data imports and conversions and update structured data in ERP systems.
Purchase order processing: Bots can scan POs for critical information, input them into the correct system, and set them to an approval request.
Accounts reconciliation: Bots can audit and reconcile data during every stage of the process without the need for human intervention.
Tax calculations: Bots can gather data for tax calculations, formulate reports and create tax basis.
Managing appointments: Bots can schedule appointments as well as change, cancel or update appointments when needed or requested.
Administrative data entry: Bots can be used to take data inputs from different sources and place them into a database used by the organization.
Document digitalization: Bots can use intelligent document processing to prepare and digest documents. These can relate to anything from insurance claims to health records.
Network management: Bots can help navigate complex applications, rekey data and retrieve high volumes of information.
Customer onboarding/offboarding: Bots can add customers automatically whenever a new one joins and are simple to remove when they leave.
Expense control: Bots can cut operational and capital expenditures by upholding robust data integrity and security.
Bookings: Bots can scan customer data to make personalized suggestions regarding specific amenities that are most relevant to each customer. They can also meet reservations or upsell rooms and promotional offers.
Competitor pricing analysis: Bots can inspect how much others charge their customers relative to what they have to offer.
Loyalty processing: Bots can process and verify guests’ data and evaluate the trends emergent from data files.
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Real-World Example: Walmart
One of the most recognized companies that have leveraged the potential of RPA is retail giant Walmart. The company has adopted RPA to help with the day-to-day back-office tasks. Walmart’s back-office processes over 200 million account receivables and the payroll of more than 2.3 million employees. Due to the volume of work, any efficiency improvement can go a long way for the business and result in large savings. Walmart’s senior vice president of global business services and emerging technology, Yazdi Bagli, has praised the technology. Bagli shared an example stating how the sale tax refunds and audit process have been simplified and improved because of the acquisition of RPA.
Should You Implement RPA?
It is clear to see why RPA is one of the fastest-growing enterprise softwares in the world and why so many industries have taken to opportunity to adopt the technology to help boost business. It offers a wide range of benefits to companies in virtually every sector of the business world. However, to fully experience these benefits, it is important to consider how you will implement it within your business. Assess which parts of your business could benefit from RPA the most, work out if the objectives are to make a single process more efficient or if its implementation will have benefits on a larger scale, and present ways you will manage the software.