Increased efficiency, streamlined operations, endless possibilities. That’s what robotic process automation (RPA) has to offer. Anyone in business knows the modern world-of-work is crowded, competitive, and highly innovative. To stay ahead of the competition, businesses in all industries should embrace automation. Choosing to implement RPA technology helps all types of companies to provide their customers with faster and more personalized service in addition to taking cumbersome tasks off of their employee’s plates. Are you curious to see how RPA achieves all of this? In this guide, we’ll offer you insight into how RPA benefits multiple industries and answer three of the most popular questions surrounding robotic process automation:
- What is RPA?
- What can RPA be used for?
- What is a robotic process automation example?
What Is an RPA Tool?
Before we dive into specific use cases, let’s discuss RPA in a broader context. To begin, let’s discuss how RPA tools work. No matter the industry, all RPA tools are designed to improve operational processes and increase productivity. Typically, an RPA developer will create multiple software bots to help a business automate specific activities. These robots are programmed to replicate the steps a human takes to complete each designated task.
RPA tools, or bots, are most often introduced to take over repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Think about it this way – why should workers spend their brain power doing mindless data-entry and generating analytical reports when their time would be better spent on high-level problem-solving tasks? RPA gives companies the option to pass these low-level operational tasks to an RPA bot so your workforce can focus on more critical and creative endeavors. Additionally, incorporating RPA technology into your workflows takes very little effort on your end, especially if you enlist the help of a third party consulting service.
How Can RPA Be Used in the Workplace?
According to a recent report from Gartner, the use of RPA increased by nearly 20% in 2021, making it the fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software market. The demand for RPA technology is expected to continue increasing throughout the coming years. That’s mainly because RPA can do so much for so many. This, of course, makes it impractical to list all of the ways RPA can be used in every workplace. However, there are several general ways RPA can be applied across all industries. Take a look below:
- Imitate actions completed on a computer screen.
- Navigate multiple software systems.
- Perform a wide range of specified actions.
- Collect, store, and analyze data.
- Transfer data to and from different applications.
- Trigger automated responses.
- Execute transactions.
- Move files and folders.
- Fill out files and forms.
- Log in and out of systems.
- Copy information to another location.
- Compile routine reports.
Which Industries Can Use RPA?
One of the most appealing aspects of RPA is that it can be applied to virtually any industry. Here are some broad RPA use case examples:
- Automated marketing functions, like email campaigns.
- Budgeting functions like invoice management.
- Chatbots for customer service.
- Day-to-day data migration and data entry processes.
One of the most appealing aspects of RPA is that the technology is highly adaptable, meaning it can be applied and adjusted to meet the needs of any business.
What Are the Use Cases for RPA?
Almost every industry is bogged down by time-consuming, manual processes and incompatible applications that are incapable of effectively communicating with each other. This leads to two critical issues:
- Leaving too much room for human error, resulting in slower customer service, which hurts the company’s bottom line.
- Preventing employees from attending to creative, human-centric tasks and ideation that could lead to greater innovation, benefitting the overall business.
RPA takes these issues off the table, compounding value every step of the way. Here are just a few examples of how RPA is used to the benefit of multiple industries.
RPA Use Cases in Finance and Accounting
The loan application process is very time-consuming and labor intensive for financial institutions and their customers, making it an excellent candidate for automation. In the traditional loan application process, forms and information needed to complete the application are sent in a series of emails with attached PDFs. Usually, finance workers will manually extract the data from each document, verify that the information is correct, and assess the overall credit worthiness of the application. Now, RPA bots come fully stacked with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that take care of extracting and analyzing the data from these applications, allowing the finance worker to focus on developing stronger relationships with their customers.
Bank reconciliation is another example of a highly time-intensive and cumbersome process in the finance industry. Traditionally, employees are required to wade through seemingly endless stacks of transactional data to finalize reports and figures. In this case, RPA bots can step in and replace these manual efforts using rule-based automation programming. This allows the bots to complete multiple tasks involved in the bank reconciliation process like:
- Verifying all payment entries against bank data and additional financial records.
- Identifying discrepancies and sending faulty records back to the customer for review and verification.
Benefits of RPA in Finance and Accounting
RPA has proven to be a significant boon for the finance and accounting sector. This includes benefits like improved compliance and increased efficiency in data entry and reporting. From automating individual tasks to deploying full-process automation for more accurate financial analysis, RPA can easily be applied to any repetitive finance or accounting process.
RPA Use Cases in Retail
Every industry has to manage invoices, but this process has an extra layer of complexity when it comes to retail. Retail workers are often buried under paperwork, multiple invoice forms, and huge swaths of data. Manually managing retail invoicing is a significant waste of time and often leads to costly errors. RPA bots can take on repetitive tasks like collecting invoices, segregating data, and processing bills, allowing retailers to focus their energy on sales and other high-level activities.
Supply and Demand Planning
Supply and demand planning is one of the most critical processes in retail operations. Successful supply and demand planning ensures that customer demand is accurately forecasted and that the retailer’s inventory is set to match the projected demand. In the past, the supply and demand process involved manually gathering and standardizing demand data, creating simulations, and other time-intensive activities. Before RPA, compiling and analyzing this data took a significant amount of guesswork, which did not always garner the best results.
Now, RPA can take control of the entire supply and demand process. Not only does this save time, but it also increases the accuracy of each demand forecast. Fully-automated supply and demand forecasting provides the retail sectors with the information they need to make data-driven decisions which lead to improved asset management, capacity management, supplier management, as well as increased sales.
Benefits of RPA in Retail
Retail is an extremely complex industry with a lot of moving parts. RPA can be implemented to support and streamline retail activities such as:
- Inventory management
- Contract management
- Store planning
Almost all retailers will have to use some form of automation to better perform in a digital selling atmosphere. According to a 2018 report from Gartner, quite accurately predicted that RPA has become a requirement for retailers who wish to truly make progress in digital business.
RPA Use Cases in Insurance
Manually canceling insurance policies is an infamously tedious process. To manually cancel a policy, an insurance agent must individually bounce between an email server, Excel, a policy administration system, and a CRM. Oftentimes, the agent must go through each application a second time to ensure that all data and other information is entered correctly. An RPA bot easily completes each task in the different platforms, simultaneously.
Policy administration systems are well-known for being expensive, difficult to maintain, and cumbersome to scale. RPA is capable of automating various administrative and transactional processes like accounting, regulatory compliances, settlements, and more. RPA keeps everything in one place, preventing employees from having to navigate multiple systems to complete a single task.
Benefits of RPA in Insurance
According to a study published by McKinsey & Company, the insurance industry could potentially automate 25% of its processes by 2025 – RPA would be a significant player in this automation transformation. With automation, the insurance industry can move much more quickly, benefiting everyone involved in the insurance claims process.
RPA Use Cases in Industrial Manufacturing
Using RPA with IoT allows manufacturers to lay the groundwork for achieving hyperautomation. Hyperautomation refers to the process of automating actions across disparate enterprise systems. This is achieved through improved event management automation. For example, a system that collects operational metrics (IoT data) from edge devices, like robots on an assembly line, would notify a person when something stops working. This means the employee would have to:
- Stop whatever they are doing.
- Check the alerting system.
- Log onto the management system.
- Take corrective action.
- Open a support ticket to have someone investigate.
This is especially tiresome when an event occurs outside of working hours. Luckily, this entire process could be automated via RPA. Once a historical dataset is built by RPA developers, then the RPA bots can model the signals that lead to certain common outages and proactively address risk.
Currently, many logistics activities are paper-based in the manufacturing industry. However, maintaining a paper-based model for logistics operations can quickly become unmanageable and error-laden. But this is where Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) comes in. IDP uses RPA to digitize paper-based activities. For example, an RPA bot can be used to pull information from driver logs.
Traditionally, drivers would store their paper logs in a file cabinet. If any questions arise regarding delivery, an employee would go to the file cabinet and search for the hardcopy driver log. Eventually, it becomes difficult to store and track all of these driver logs. However, with RPA, paper driver logs can be automatically digitized and entered into a more accessible, digital retention system.
To illustrate, a driver would take a picture of their driver log and email it to the manufacturing plant. After the log is emailed, an RPA bot would take the log, put it into a retention system, extract relevant data, and populate a searchable database. This is especially important for remote workforces that are not able to go into an office and access a file cabinet. By digitizing the paper-based operation, RPA builds a digital portal that’s easily accessed by anyone.
Benefits of RPA in Manufacturing
Using RPA in the manufacturing industry comes with a long list of benefits including:
- Increased productivity
- Higher quality products
- Better use of materials
- Reduced factory lead times
With RPA and Foulk By Your Side, the Possibilities Are Endless
One RPA bot can outperform up to thirty times the work of a human worker according to a 2020 Gartner study. This means that bots can quickly manage unwieldy low-level tasks, while the rest of the team focuses on bigger and better things. Everyone wins.
Also, incorporating RPA technology into your business is much easier than you would think. There is no need for your IT team to start building RPA bots all on their own. When you partner with Foulk Consulting, we’ll take care of all the heavy lifting. From creating the bots to integrating RPA into your existing tech infrastructure, we do it all. And if you have any questions along the way, we’re here to support you 24/7. If you’re interested in learning more about how RPA can benefit your business, you can find information about our solutions here.