Article | 14.5.2021
It’s about time manufacturing organizations start automating back-office processes too
Although manufacturing and industrial organizations have been at the forefront of applying robotics in their production processes by employing physical robots, automating back-office and operational processes have often been overlooked. Despite having automated their production processes for decades already now and having invested huge amounts in Industry 4.0, many organizations have been slow at automating their back-office processes regardless of their high automation potential. Now is the right time, at the latest, to start automating the routine tasks of back-office processes.
There is very high automation potential in several functions of manufacturing organizations: e.g. inventory management, supply chain management, customer service and administrative tasks. RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is a fast to employ, easy and cost-effective tool to automate processes within those functions. Let’s look at these more closely.
RPA can significantly improve manufacturing organizations’ inventory management by providing real-time data of inventory levels as software robots monitor inventory levels and customer demand around the clock. This enables organizations to make better data-based decisions. For example, by automating a process that checks items in danger of shortage, our customer was able to decrease the amount of shortage, ensure better component availability and reduce bottlenecks in their production.
Supply chain and logistics management also benefit from the automated data that robotics provides. For instance, RPA enables more accurate data on product arrival times and stock availability. Another automation Sisua implemented for a manufacturing organization was a robot that updates daily the changing arrival dates of their shipping containers to their enterprise ERP. This regular and automated information improved their data quality in their ERP as the supply planners could trust the accuracy of the arrival dates. The automation shortened the goods-in-transit time and provided current data of stock availability, which in turn was an important outcome for delivery centers and retail shops.
Customer service operations are likewise much more efficient with automation. Manual customer request handling is error-prone and slow and often leads to delayed response time to customers, which in turn results in discontented customers. Handling customer requests typically involves extracting and changing information in different systems which is laborious and slow when done manually. Software robots can boost that by gathering data from different sources and storing it in one place – thus allowing faster and more accurate customer service.
Another vital process to automate is bill-of-material. The improved data accuracy allows production planners to make better decisions on where, what, when and how to buy materials. This reduces errors and wastage of materials and enables faster production cycle.
Moreover, traditionally organizations have not been able to achieve the time-cost-quality triangle, as they’ve been forced to pick two of those and leave the third one below strength. However, RPA automation solutions break this rule, as they enable achieving all of those three aspects.
Automation benefits for manufacturing organizations
- Improved operational efficiency
- Reduced costs
- Improved communication with customers & suppliers
- Reduced wastage and shortage of items or materials
- Increased output & production cycle
Author: Paiju Koivula