Why Robotic Process Automation Works with Process Improvement

Why Robotic Process Automation Works with Process Improvement

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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When it comes to process improvement, humans provide the most essential element. However, experts say that automation will play a significant role in making operations more efficient in the future – and in some cases, it’s already in place.

Will automation take jobs handled by people? In a sense, yes. The goal is to have automation take over routine tasks that waste valuable time for human employees. However, in theory, that will free up people to work on more creative, impactful projects.

There’s a name for this type of software: Robotic process automation (RPA). It’s a type of software that enables automation of even complex digital processes by performing them much in the way that human users would perform them.

Companies are turning to RPA to “streamline enterprise operations and reduce costs,” according to CIO. The global market for robotic process automation is projected to reach $5 billion by 2024.

How Robotic Process Automation Works

The difference between RPA and other automated software programs is that it can imitate a human user on multiple information systems. It’s a step between basic automation and the more advanced machine learning tools that can do the same work, but also be programmed to make decisions on future outputs from a system.

Companies already are putting RPA to use, including Walmart, American Express and AT&T. The most frequent uses are in financial process and transferring data from email and call center speech-to-text systems into transaction record systems, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) titled, “Before Automating Your Company’s Processes, Find Ways to Improve Them.”

Other businesses have adopted RPA for back and middle-office processes.

However, it’s important to note that a robotic process automation system does not provide process improvement on its own. It works, as programmed, on tasks. It can do them faster, perhaps, but it doesn’t change the nature of the process itself.

That’s up to people.

Process Improvement Before Automation

Implementing process improvement before putting RPA into place is a wise move. For example, some processes are overly complex to begin with – that would fall into the extra-processing section of the eight wastes in Lean.

Finding what doesn’t add value to any process and then discarding it can help a process run even smoother, whether it’s done by a human or RPA.

As noted by HBR, robotic process automation operates by a set of rules when working with data. However, many of those business rules might not have been evaluated in years, making such systems inefficient.

HBR listed both Lloyd’s Baking Group and payroll company ADP as examples of companies who first implemented process improvement before instituting RPA. Both have seen improvements in efficiency.

“The companies we have seen achieve the greatest success in deploying RPA are those who combine it with the disciplines of process redesign and continuous improvement,” HBR wrote.

The Opportunity in Robotic Process Automation

In a report on RPA, consulting firm Deloitte wrote that there are big gains to be made by companies that employ robotic process automation. For example, they listed the following ways RPA improves operations.

  • Robot-based processes reduce the need for human involvement, which increases consistency
  • In the area of efficiency, robots can work 24/7 and handle mundane tasks that people finding draining
  • Robotics are flexible and scalable. Once programmed to handle a process, it “can be scheduled to run when it is needed on as many robots as required”

However, Deloitte also noted that the impact of RPA is not always measurable because metrics haven’t been created – something process improvement requires. Also, there are security issues with RPA that must be addressed.

Ways to Implement RPA

One of the areas that frequently comes up with RPA is the elimination of jobs. CIO points out that is an issue for companies, especially in the management of talent on staff who might fear they will lose their job if a company automates.

They caution that, in theory, automation could “threaten the livelihood” of about 9% of the global workforce, some 230 million knowledge workers. That’s a huge number. But they also note that most companies, aware of this potential, are training employees displaced from routine tasks for jobs that have a bigger impact on company strategy and goals.

Also, RPA implementations may fail because it is a far more complex task than companies may have foreseen. They also note that RPA should be considered from the standpoint of how it can improve customer experience, not how it can save money. The focus on customers is another major tenet of Lean.

Companies that manage expectations, consider customer experience, understand and plan for the impact on people and put proper controls in place do the best, CIO reported.

It’s clear that robotic process automation will impact businesses, customers and the workforce. Putting process improvement in place first can help the transition go much smoother.

The post Why Robotic Process Automation Works with Process Improvement appeared first on Six Sigma Daily.

Original: https://www.sixsigmadaily.com/robotic-process-automation-process-improvement/
By: admin
Posted: February 28, 2019, 12:00 pm

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