Robotic Process Automation: the future of process improvement?
Will robots rule the future? If the hype around Robotic Process Automation (RPA) continues to grow, they could well do! But what’s all the fuss about? We take a look at the pros and cons of RPA and explain how simulation can be used to unlock its full potential.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
RPA is an emerging technology that uses artificial intelligence software – robots – to automate routine and rules-based processes. These robots can perform tasks like opening programs, moving files and folders, cutting and pasting data, filling in forms, performing basic calculations and extracting data from documents. Basically, any task that involves a basic ‘if-then’ action to complete.
Essentially, RPA is all about minimizing the burden of mundane, clerical work from employees so they are free to work on tasks that add much more value to your business and most importantly, allow them deliver brilliant customer experiences.
Let’s take an example. A bank could utilize RPA software to manage a credit card application process. The robots could collate documents from applicants, extract the form data, undertake background/credit checks, and make the final decision of whether the applicant is eligible. If the application is approved, they can issue a new card and close the case on the system. As a result, we’ve now freed up our staff so they can spend more time chatting to customers who might have questions before applying, or helping people who have lost their card. These are both examples where as a customer, or potential customer, you really want to deal with a human!
What are the benefits of RPA for businesses?
RPA has massive potential, with Garter predicting that by 2024, organizations combining automation technologies with redesigned operational processes will lower costs by 30%.
These impressive figures could be achieved as a result of:
Higher accuracy and reduced human error: RPA robots are designed to be completely accurate, consistent, and compliant with processes. They don’t make the same mistakes that humans might make if they are busy, tired or sick.
Improved productivity and cost savings: Software robots don’t need to sleep or rest and can complete tasks in much less time. With work being done more quickly, this also creates capacity for more work to get done.
Focus and engage employees on high value activities: By automating monotonous work, employees can focus on more engaging and stimulating tasks that add the most value to your business. In turn, engaged employees will drive better customer experiences; happy workers lead to happy customers!
Sounds great! What’s the downside of RPA?
Like any emerging technology, there are challenges associated with RPA – particularly around how companies approach implementation.
To maximize the benefits, you’ll need to deploy robots in the right places at the right time. But with long, complex or intertwined processes, many companies struggle to find the ‘sweet spots’ for RPA implementation.
Another key issue is that robots alone can’t help your business fire on all cylinders (not yet, anyway). RPA won’t fix any broken or inefficient processes that already exist in your business. Most RPA tools can’t intelligently uncover how processes work or make decisions to optimize them. So before implementing the technology, companies should focus on addressing the root causes of any process inefficiencies.
The good news? This is where simulation software can help!
How can simulation improve RPA implementation?
At SIMUL8, we’re seeing more companies turning to simulation software to help make the business case for RPA and ensure maximum return on investment. Simulation is so powerful because it enables you to model processes and mimic the introduction of robots in a digital, risk-free environment.
Identify target processes for improvement and automation
Simulation can be used to help identify any inefficient parts of your process and those that are ripe for RPA implementation. You can model any element of your business to uncover processes where:
- You have high volumes of work – as a key benefit of RPA is reduced human effort, identifying your highest volume processes can add most value.
- Work is taking too long to process – processes that delay delivery of services are good candidates for automation to help make processes faster.
- You have a lot of rework – the more manual errors in a process, the more benefits your company can get from automation.
- Work requires irregular resources or labor – processes with irregular labor demands force companies to employ for peak demand which is inefficient and costly.
Find out more about using simulation for process analysis and improvement
Assess return on investment from RPA implementation
When you’ve identified the areas that could benefit from RPA, how do you know which will have the biggest bang for your buck? It can be tempting to try and automate everything at once, but it’s important to understand the real return on investment.
Identifying the best approach for capital investment is a popular use case for simulation. You can take the simulation of your existing process and add resource blocks that mimic the same capabilities and efficiency of RPA tools. By running simulation trials with different configurations or placement of robots, you’ll be able to quickly identify the areas where they will have the biggest impact on efficiency and cost savings.
Find out more about using simulation to assess capital investment projects
Redesign operational processes for automation
As well as pinpointing parts of the process for automation, it’s also important to identify the potential ripple effects of implementation. This includes the impact on other parts of the process, internal resources, applications and systems, and even your external stakeholders or customers. Every detail must be considered to minimize any business disruption.
As simulation allows you to model your entire proposed process, you’ll be able to quickly identify the ramifications of introducing automation and test ‘what-if’ scenarios:
- Will implementing RPA into one part of the process move bottlenecks elsewhere?
- What will be the impact on staff utilization?
- How could we better utilize staff that have been freed up from routine tasks?
- What benefits should our customers expect to see?
Answering these questions will allow you to use the simulation to redesign processes to better accommodate automation. After all, there’s no point of introducing automation if the rest of the system won’t be able to cope.
If your organization decides to implement RPA, you’ll be able to use the simulation to ensure that automation is having the desired operational and strategic impact and to identify further opportunities for improvement.
Make the business case for Robotic Process Automation with SIMUL8
RPA is already taking off in a big way, with Deloitte predicting that it will reach near-universal adoption at some point in 2023. If your business hasn’t yet implemented RPA, or if you’ve had issues in attempting to implement it, simulation is a proven decision-making tool for assessing the optimum placement and maximizing return on investment.
You can find out more about using simulation for RPA projects, or learn more about the benefits of SIMUL8 simulation software by getting in touch with our team today.