As described on Wikipedia, the RPA is an emerging form of clerical process automation technology based on the notion of software robots or Artificial Intelligence (AI) workers. Basically, it is a software robot application that replicates the actions of a human being by interacting with the user interface of a computer system. Simply, the robot clicks in various applications, software, browser, etc. like a human being would do.
But how does it work? Who controls the robot and why we want to use it anyway?
These are the common questions when you hear about the RPA for the first time. Sometimes people are afraid of new technologies (almost everyone knows the Terminator movie). But from my point of view, we don’t need to be afraid. It’s only a next step, a next revolution – as it was with robots in manufacturing industry or development of the assembly line technique of mass production.
Why should we spend our time and computing skills on boring repetitive tasks if we can use it for something more challenging and for developing our skills? This is one of the benefits of using RPA solutions. Your colleagues can concentrate better on what really matters (quality, customer service, new ideas, etc.). Another benefit is a decrease of operating costs and in many scenarios also a reduction of IT costs achieved by implementing of RPA instead of developing large cross-platform IT solutions.
In general, if we talk about the suitable environment for robots, we talk mainly about standardization, harmonization and stabilization of the processes. Why is it so important? Because only under such circumstances you can effectively automatize high volumes of data or repetitive tasks. Your processes are structured and rules-based with defined inputs and outputs. Robots can’t make free decisions like people (at least not now, but there are some AI projects working on it), right now robots only follow the rules. The rules, that are included in the processes and were transformed to RPA software.
Of course effective use of RPA needs a suitable environment where you can adopt such solutions. It needs someone who will control the robots and transform the processes into RPA software.
RPA in MANN+HUMMEL Service
The first contact with robots was roughly a year ago. It was with a Czech partner of the UK based Blue Prism Company. Blue Prism is one of the most frequently used RPA software. They have been on the market for more than 10 years and their software is very popular in Shared Service Centres around the world.
After some pilots, we started to develop some of the projects on our own in 2016. Right now we only have one robot, which can handle only one task at a time but it can run 24/7. Like every beginning, it was not easy and there is still a long road ahead. Yet we are improving with every new project. Our projects are mostly related to our ERP but we have some processes connected with other systems as well.
In my humble opinion, RPA is the future, also for MANN+HUMMEL. There are many new technologies developed in connection with RPA like machine learning, cognitive RPA, semi-autonomous systems, etc. I’m happy to be a part of this new stream that is coming.