For a field that has greatly advanced thanks to implementing automated machinery from the production line to loading and shipping, it’s no surprise that the manufacturing industry is still improving thanks to Robotic Process Automation (RPA), with a larger adoption rate than many other sectors.
RPA software applies the same automation ideas as robotic assembly lines to a business’ back office, taking on repetitive but crucial work so people can focus on other tasks. Deciding which workflows to automate depends on the needs and goals of each manufacturer. Taking a broad view, RPA has helped companies collect better data, accomplish day-to-day activities faster, reduce errors, cut costs, and even lower their environmental impact.
Let’s look at these benefits one by one and see how you and your business can achieve them:
1. Automate invoice processing
Long approval times, lack of overview, and high volumes of manual paperwork can be frustrating to anyone and lead to business-wide inefficiencies. That’s why many manufacturing companies chose to use Robotic Process Automation to simplify and speed up invoice processing with bots.
Filling in invoices and sending them to relevant parties can become a long and complex workflow, but it’s made up of small, repetitive, and simple tasks. That’s why automation software is an excellent candidate to fill in the role.
Once the bot’s workflow is defined by the team, assisted by an RPA expert, employees can focus on more intensive work, instead of filling out data on forms & sending them forward.
2. Simplify inventory management
Managing one’s inventory to keep optimal production may not seem too complicated, but these past years of shortages and strained supply chains prove how false that can be.
When a product is composed of hundreds of components and materials, sourced from various vendors, and consumed in different quantities during production, an excel sheet doesn’t cut it. Factor in multiple warehouses and production plants and inventory management becomes a labor-intensive slog.
That’s why manufacturing companies look to RPA software to help in the following ways:
- Instantly update inventory documents when materials are added or used;
- Create and centralize comprehensive reports that help specialists determine how quickly materials are used;
- Automatically order new stock once it falls below a set threshold;
- Fill in payment details while keeping the procurement and accounting teams in the loop;
- Track shipments autonomously through updates from suppliers.
With bots to take care of the repetitive tasks, people can focus on exceptions and streamlining the entire process from ordering to manufacturing to shipping finished products.
3. Create Bills of Materials (BOMs) quicker
An incomplete, unclear, or outdated bill of materials that doesn’t include all the needed components, raw materials, and instructions can lead to slow-downs and blockers during production. That’s why all employees involved must have an up-to-date copy of the bill, especially while the product is undergoing testing or any sort of change.
The challenge is keeping a single BOM as a source of truth when several teams from different departments (engineering or procurement) or locations (office headquarters or manufacturing center) need to both read and modify the document.
By employing RPA bots to collect, transfer, and store all the information needed for the BOM, companies speed up the R&D process and eliminate the risks associated with manual work.
The RPA software can gather data through templates with checks to ensure its validity and update the document automatically, so all parties who need the BOM for their work can see the latest version. In case of materials shortages, you can also rely on bots to automatically find alternative suppliers or components.
4. Merge legacy systems with new solutions
Many companies are weary of migrating to new digital environments. The major concerns are that a data transfer would render the system nonoperational, or that some information would be lost. Transferring data from the old environment to the new manually could be an option, but it takes plenty of person-hours and there’s the risk of human error.
Luckily, RPA is a safe middle option – using software bots to handle the migration process through the same interfaces a person would, just faster and safer.
By defining a clear workflow and rules for bot activity, plus the capacity to read and digitize paper documents, RPA software can take the lion’s share of work during the migration. If the bots encounter erroneous or missing data, it notifies the employees to double-check the info and fill in the blanks where necessary.
The result is a fast and painless migration with little to no errors or downtime.
5. Create sustainable procedures
Creating a lean business model that minimizes or stops any harm to the environment, as well as enriching people’s lives has become a large priority for many companies, especially in the manufacturing industry. Besides meeting public expectations, businesses can only benefit from optimizing their day-to-day operations, as it lowers waste and boosts employee engagement.
The first step to leveraging RPA software in this journey is to automate data collection. Bots can be put in charge of recording and measuring metrics such as the company’s energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and supply chain, but also more human concerns, like work satisfaction in the team. After all, many companies opt to use RPA in user experience optimization and the same can be done with staff as well.
Once data starts pouring in, you can make informed decisions on what processes can be improved and made more sustainable. It’s important that you align your business goals and pledges with the automation implementation project, so an RPA expert can help you determine which metrics are the most valuable and how bots can help.
How to implement RPA in your organization
According to a study done by Forrester in collaboration with UiPath, over three years, RPA can bring businesses 225,000 extra work hours, resulting in an ROI of 97%.
As we mentioned before, planning how you want to use RPA and to what effect is the first step and the bedrock of the automation strategy. Starting with general directions and narrowing down to clear KPIs, you should identify which processes can benefit most from the software.
Then it’s a matter of designing the bots so they can complete their tasks quickly and without error. To ensure a smooth transition, these bots also go through a “training course” – operating in an offline environment designed to simulate their responsibilities after deployment. This quality assurance step is meant to find any blockers and address them before going live.
Then comes the deployment itself, but the project is not over yet. Next comes a monitoring phase to ensure efficiency and address any unforeseen complications if they appear.
With an experienced RPA team to guide you throughout the process, you can leverage the RPA bots’ versatility and apply them to your current objectives, whether it’s through the automation use cases we presented above or a separate set of improvements.
We’re more than happy to help you from the first planning session to deployment and optimization. Get in touch with one of our experts and start your RPA journey!