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Leverage Rpa To Drive Costs Out
Brad Warezak, Divisional CIO / IT Director, Howmet Aerospace
RPA is not new, but the capabilities of the tools are far superior than ever before. Ten years ago, automation was limited to Perl scripted bots that opened a spreadsheet and loaded data into a webpage. These scripts provided great business value by automating the manual loading of data into web apps. This technology, however, was only available to skilled developers, as the learning curve on Perl was steep.
The rapidly evolving RPA technology has enabled those outside of development teams to leverage the tools. There are several great tools from vendors such as Automation Anywhere, UIPath, Microsoft and others. These RPA tools provide a means to mimic human processing using easy-to-use software interfaces. Business analysts, developers, and tech savvy business users can create RPA bots. Anyone that wants to learn can easily get started via YouTube, RPA vendor websites, and cheap courses on Udemy.
The mystery of how to replicate what users are doing daily has been demystified. RPA tools are structured with building blocks that have all the basic office worker computer functions covered.
Investments in RPA technology has helped ease the pain of workforce reductions during COVID and will continue to drive workforce efficiencies in tight labor markets. Here are a few examples of how RPA technology has demonstrated this in my organization.
1. In one instance, an employee was spending hours a week downloading reports from a supplier website, combining data with internal reports, analyzing historical reports for reconciliation, and making recommendations for next actions. The process was analyzed to understand the inputs, outputs, and steps performed to enable the automation. Traditionally, because of the process complexity, IT would have built an app to solve the problem. In this case, RPA was used to replicate the same steps, from downloading the reports, executing copy/paste, inserting new rows, validating transactions, cross checking entries, making recommendations, and emailing results. Through automation, the impact of losing the resource was not felt, as management continues to receive key reports.
“Investments in RPA technology has helped ease the pain of workforce reductions during COVID and will continue to drive workforce efficiencies in tight labor markets”
2. In another instance, RPA was used instead of costly EDI development. My team has demonstrated that an RPA solution can provide better value than EDI (or other 3rd party adapters) with minimal changes to a current business process. An RPA bot was delivered to process Sales Orders received via email and load them into our ERP system with no user interaction, other than to be notified that the order is available for processing. The bot performs all validations that a customer service representative performs, such as customer and product pricing verification and data entry into the ERP system. Using AI plus OCR, the technology is responsive to various customer purchase order formats.
3. In a last example, RPA was used to create a Power BI dashboard from a cloud-based application. Traditionally this would require an API from the cloud app and an ETL to load a reporting database. Instead, the application sends data reports to an email box monitored by RPA bot. The RPA bot moves the attachments to a SharePoint location, which are then automatically loaded into a Power BI dashboard.
In each of these examples, RPA technology was used to drive costs out of the organization by reducing manual labor and improving staff productivity. The impact of the pandemic and labor shortages have created more demand for automation. The adoption of new RPA technology can greatly expand the value that IT can provide and lower the cost of business operations.