RPA – Robotic Process Automation – but what for?

Software robots help with monotonous and annoying tasks

Have you often transferred data from several Excel sheets or PDF files to another application several times a day? Or do you have to transfer orders from incoming e-mails into an enterprise resource planning system on a regular basis? If you know these activities, then you have only one wish. You would like to minimize or hand over this time-consuming work. You now have an idea of what RPA means: the automated execution of this (annoying) activity by a software robot.

Rototic Process Automation (RPA) explained

Are robots really destroying jobs? – When a software robot carries out repetitive work, it has one major advantage: the susceptibility to transmission errors is significantly reduced. This is because a robot cannot be disturbed or confused, for example by a call from a customer or questions from colleagues.

Lost time when transferring data manually

A common example from everyday practice in a company: Every day, more than 50 orders arrive by e-mail with an attached order in pdf format. The sales department still transfers the orders to the ERP system manually in the traditional manner. It takes about 5 to 8 minutes per order.

One tool that takes over this work is an RPA bot with artificial intelligence (AI). As a rule, 70-90% of incoming orders are automatically entered into the inventory management system and, if desired, the order confirmations are also sent immediately.

The advantages of using such software robot

The RPA Bot is a hardworking helper. And so your employees now waste much less time manually entering data. Instead, they have much more time to devote to their actual tasks, e.g. sales and thus the company’s goals. Another positive effect is that both employees and management are more satisfied. And what’s more: focusing on the actual work leads to an increase in the value of the company.

As a result, these automated processes become proven and highly effective parts of your value chain.

Meaningful work leads to satisfaction

Studies have shown that we humans seek meaning in our daily work. That’s why I appeal from my professional experience to quickly automate work that lacks meaning. In lectures, I like to use this image: Four decades ago, robots entered the production of manufacturing companies as a substitute for human labor. They replaced monotonous and repetitive tasks. At the same time, they increased the quality of work.

Anyone familiar with the film “Modern Times” by and with Charlie Chaplin knows what I mean. Chaplin already demonstrated some 90 years ago how existentially important meaningful and satisfying work was for people even then – in the second wave of industrialization in the 1930s.

Fact check: Decision for RPA

Software robots can usefully solve all those tasks that are simple and repetitive for humans. Once you have identified these work processes, you can examine the use of RPA.

The costly manual input times in our example above can literally be dematerialized. The labor time saved can now be recycled, whether in savings or in the development of service-oriented activities. For example, the freed-up working time could be used for cross-selling or for acquiring new customers.

In summary:

RPA, i.e. software robots, whether with or without AI, serve to relieve employees. They ensure a qualitatively better overall result and are a recipe for success.

The application threshold – surprisingly low

A rule of thumb says that RPA makes sense if 4 human work hours can be saved every day.

RPA tools are available for a fee in different license models. It is important to determine the payback period for your own company! However, it is also important to know that it is not uncommon for a license to be used for other areas of application, such as HR to create the various accesses. You should take this into account when selecting a suitable tool.

So the question comes: Is RPA only something for IT experts?

Clear answer: No, IT knowledge is not required.

People often fear that setting up such techniques is very time-consuming and complex. This is usually a fallacy. It usually takes a few hours up to 3 days to completely automate a process. RPA is not witchcraft, it is just a record of workflows with the appropriate instructions to simulate those workflows.

Understanding of process flows

Normally, no programming knowledge is necessary. What is important above all is an understanding of processes.

It is important to be able to understand computer-based processes and to know their effects. Along the way, optimization possibilities of delays in processes are recognized and, in relation to the possibilities of RPA technologies, the repetitive activities are uncovered that can be taken over by a software tool.

For example, RPA tools have recorders that record human workflows. Therefore, workers are usually asked to point out their work, which must then be checked for automation. The recorded workflows form the basis for the virtual robots: these only repeat the activities that humans have demonstrated to them.

Of course, there are also plausibility checks and exit points, in which errors or processes not covered can be manually checked and corrected by humans.

Conclusion on RPA

  • RPA is an inexpensive and very supple alternative to cost-intensive and ultimately rigid interfaces.
  • Media discontinuities between applications and also operating systems can thus be reliably and effectively circumvented.
  • Especially in times of technological progress, RPA solutions can permanently save enormous costs and times.
  • RPA is a successful formula for reliably increasing productivity in a company.
  • Employee satisfaction improves as repetitive and unpleasant work is reduced.
    New capacities are often freed up and new tasks can be taken on.
  • RPA is not a magic bullet, but a proven means to quickly and easily overcome system and media discontinuities in an automated and pragmatic way. And this in combination with a – sometimes even immense – cost reduction.


Author: Gerhard Krumm (Xing)

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