How Is RPA Used in Manufacturing?

Has your manufacturing plant adopted robotic process automation (RPA)? If not, you may be burdening your team members with repetitive tasks that software bots could handle with little to no supervision. And, you wouldn’t be alone. The average business is only taking advantage of half of its opportunities for automation. Why is this? Programming RPA systems takes the resources of a full IT team. Adding RPA to their list of responsibilities can inhibit RPA adoption.  At Foulk Consulting, we can unleash the full potential of your RPA investment by relieving your staffing constraints and delivering holistic RPA solutions.

In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of the industrial use of RPA and how your business can implement automation. 

How Is Robotics Used in Manufacturing?

When most people think of robotics used in manufacturing, they likely picture physical robots along a conveyor belt that assemble, test, and package products. This makes sense, as there are currently over 2.7 million robots that work in factories around the globe. By taking on repetitive and sometimes dangerous tasks, robotics save time and money while also making factories safer. 

But did you know that robotics can also be used to automate the business processes that keep plants running?

What Is RPA in Manufacturing?

Robotics process automation completes digital tasks performed by humans that are repetitive and rules-based by using software robots. Some bots function with attended automation, while others can operate with unattended automation. 

As the name suggests, attended automation processes still need some level of human input. This is true for more complex processes where certain steps aren’t clear enough for bots to decipher. A common example of a process that can only be partially automated is customer service. Software bots can handle steps like sending out confirmation emails that an order was shipped, but a person is still needed to handle nuanced interactions such as a customer who received damaged products.  

Processes that can operate without additional human input are referred to as unattended automation. Because these processes involve tasks that are repetitive and based on clear rules, bots can understand when to start those processes and complete them in their entirety. An example of unattended automation in manufacturing would be warehouse inventory monitoring. When products are scanned for outbound shipments, RPA can track the reduced inventory and automatically order a restock once your inventory dips below a certain level.     

How Does RPA Help in Operations?

RPA helps make your manufacturing operations more efficient by automating both administrative and logistical tasks. 

Automating administrative duties can reduce human error, speed up processes, and give your team extra time to focus on more creative projects. Here are some of the ways that RPA can lessen the burden of monotonous tasks:

  • Sending invoices 
  • Running customer support chatbots
  • Transferring data
  • Sending targeted marketing emails
  • Scheduling employees

RPA can also be used to automate certain tasks that are unique to the logistics of manufacturing: 

  • Tracking inventory
  • Ordering product and material restocks 
  • Alerting you to bottlenecks

As mentioned above, even automating portions of these tasks can go a long way toward improving efficiency. Your employees will thank you, too. Team members will be able to engage more with their work when they don’t have to spend time on monotonous tasks.  

Which Industries Are Using RPA?

RPA use cases in manufacturing are present across many sub-industries. In 2021, manufacturers accounted for 35% of total investments in RPA, followed closely by tech companies at 31%. From textiles to automobiles and clothing, RPA can make manufacturing more efficient in nearly any industry.  

RPA Use Cases in the Automobile Industry

To get a better understanding of just how effective RPA can be in manufacturing, let’s take a closer look at the automobile industry. 

  • Inventory Management: Without RPA, automobile manufacturers rely on supervisors to complete even the most repetitive tasks like entering data into their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. When done properly, these are low-value-adding tasks, but when human error inevitably occurs, it can throw entire processes off. With RPA, software bots can analyze emails and other communications to automatically update the ERP—error free. Using the most up-to-date data, the RPA system can then trigger an order of safety stock to prevent product shortages.   
  • Supplier Onboarding: It takes a lot of parts to build a car, and those parts often come from different suppliers. With so many moving pieces, data can easily be presented incorrectly or not at all. RPA collects the necessary data from all of the involved systems and makes it accessible to your partners. Contracted rates, wait times, and new offerings are always up-to-date. 
  • Freight Management: Like most industries, the automobile industry is susceptible to spikes in demand. Luckily, both entering data into a total management system and selecting the optimal shipping routes and carriers are rules-based actions. In other words, they can be handled by RPA. Bots are tireless workers, so output and accuracy don’t falter when order volume increases.

While these examples are useful for the automobile industry, these benefits are also applicable when manufacturing other types of products. 

Optimize Your Workplace with Foulk Consulting

The benefits of RPA are undeniable, but how do you implement it into your manufacturing processes? Partnering with Foulk not only makes automating your processes easier, we make it seamless. You don’t even need to understand the nuts and bolts of how it all works. Our experts work with you to learn about your pain points and choose the optimal solutions. Ready to streamline your business? Contact us today.

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