Robotic process automation (RPA) is currently on everyone’s mind. But what exactly is it all about? It is a solution-driven technology used to automate business processes and to accelerate the digital transformation of companies. By using robotic process automation, companies can automate and optimise manual, time-consuming, rule-based and recurring tasks by employing individually developed software robots that imitate human work steps. In principle, they act in the same way as employees and process data according to pre-defined rules and logic. The software robots analyse, trigger reactions and communicate with other systems to perform a variety of repetitive tasks.
They can, for example, open a system, log in to it, extract the required data and insert it again in the right places in another system. Thus, search engines can be scoured for required information, analyses and reports can be created and e-mails can be written and sent in no time. For this purpose, the software robots commonly navigate through the user interface (GUI) of the systems used.
Even though RPA is often used in standard processes, the systems in which the software robots ultimately work vary. In practice, this means that the robot must first be trained and given instructions, similar to a real employee who is newly hired. For example: Open the Excel spreadsheet. If a checkmark is set in the first column, copy the text from column four into the Excel file. Subsequently send the document to the recipient from the address column. Once trained, the software robot then carries out the process in a way which is transparent, independent and documented.
Unlike other, traditional IT solutions, RPA allows companies to automate their processes at a fraction of the cost and time. Robotic process automation is also non-intrusive, using existing infrastructure without disrupting the underlying systems. In addition, no expensive interfaces are required. ‘In our opinion, process automation will become increasingly sophisticated thanks to the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI),’ explains Lena Halberstadt, Marketing and Sales Manager at Rhenus Robotics. When combined, such solutions can unleash even more potential. This is because AI can be used to automate not only standardised processes, but also cognitive processes that, for example, contain unstructured data, are highly variable or deliver uncertain results. Software robots are thus smarter and have the necessary expertise to solve complex problems. They impress with their dynamic working method and the ability to efficiently combine diverse workflows.
Rhenus Robotics also offers companies the opportunity to carry out a comprehensive analysis of their processes and data. When processing workflows, software robots collect a large amount of data that can be used meaningfully with Data Science and presented intelligibly in modern dashboards. This allows companies to identify weaknesses, strengths, trends and patterns in their business processes at an early stage and, if required, make the necessary improvements. Meaningful customer and company data can also be visualised.
For example, detailed sales reports can be created so that employees no longer need to sacrifice two hours every Monday morning preparing them. From now on, a software robot takes over exactly this task and visualises all important data in an individual dashboard that can be shared with colleagues and managers.
In the discussion about possible digitalisation measures and specifically also about the use of robotic process automation solutions, questions regarding data protection often come up. ‘We can take away the users’ fear that their data could be spied on and used by third parties through software robots,’ assures Ms Halberstadt. All data remains in the customer’s network because the software for the robot is installed on site at the customer’s premises. As soon as the robot starts its job, just like an employee, it redeems its licence key, works on the customer’s system and returns the key after the job is done. This way the data does not leave the client’s site.
Why do so many companies opt for automation with RPA? Robotic process automation enables organisations to achieve great things and address several problems at the same time. Severe lack of time combined with a great deal of overtime, lack of skilled staff, high error rates, enormous process costs and the pressure to respond quickly to market changes are just a few of the daily challenges organisations face. New approaches are therefore needed to automate business processes quickly, reliably and cost-effectively and to sustainably relieve skilled workers. The advantages of an RPA solution are obvious:
There are promising examples of RPA applications in all business sectors and industries. ‘The myth that Robotic Process Automation is only suitable for large companies is not true,’ emphasises Ms Halberstadt and explains: ‘Small and medium-sized companies are usually facing numerous processes that are suitable for an automation with RPA.’ One possible area of application can be found in accounting. Here, for instance, one of the tasks of the virtual colleague is to transfer master data from an operational system to the SAP system and to control its quality. An employee previously had to manually type the data records in the SAP system, which was very time-consuming and, above all, error-prone. The software robot now extracts the data independently from the source system and transmits it to the target system.
More and more companies are integrating process automation also in sales, management, customer service, human resources, finance, marketing and IT. Specific use cases include the creation of offers, newsletters and various evaluations, employee on- and offboarding as well as account maintenance and bank postings.
More and more industries are also recognising the potential which RPA entails. The customer base ranges from healthcare to logistics and business services. Also, payment service providers rely on intelligent process automation. The specific use case: before a payment card terminal can be used in retail, the corresponding software must be installed and configured in advance for the respective customer. A software robot now takes over exactly this task. The result is impressive: the customer was able to save a great deal of time when configuring the terminal. Instead of 20 minutes, adapting a terminal now takes less than a minute.
Robotic process automation is always suitable when tasks involve high levels of manual effort and are recurring in nature. If these are also predominantly based on the same rules, the processes can be automated very efficiently. Especially processes which are characterised by a high degree of standardisation and corresponding volumes offer great potential for the use of software robots. These often include error-prone routine tasks, such as the mere transfer and matching of data records. Processes are analysed based on certain criteria to determine whether a process is suitable for automation with RPA. These criteria give only a rough impression, and in no way exclude business processes.
It can be difficult to break the conventions of traditional, manual working habits. But smart technologies make the difference and determine the future viability of companies. Automated processes, digital technologies and the intelligent use of data create strong benefits. In particular, the importance of automation will increase for organisations in future, as better quality, reduced costs, minimised errors, satisfied customers and happy employees enable companies to differentiate themselves.
Once in use, robotic process automation solutions help companies to secure their competitiveness and innovation capability in the long term. Intelligent process automation is crucial for a successful digital transformation.
This not only increases efficiency and productivity, but also relieves employees of the immense administrative burden and frees resources at their disposal to devote to value-creating tasks and innovative ideas and concepts that drive the company forward.
Rhenus Robotics is a pioneer in driving the digital transformation forward and helps companies of any size and industry to automate manual processes using robotic process automation. Rhenus Robotics has been integrating RPA within the RETHMANN Group for several years. With this wealth of experience, the team has also been supporting more and more external companies by automating and optimising their business processes. As part of the Rhenus family, the Robotics team draws on a strong network and has positioned itself as a dynamic start-up within the group. The resources available in the areas of data protection and IT as well as many years of expertise in the healthcare sector allow them to offer a unique service. Ms Halberstadt emphasises: ‘Our focus is on the customer: we offer solution-orientated, dynamic and innovative process automation. The interaction of people, robots and intelligent technologies puts our customers on the road to success.’
The implementation of an RPA solution takes place in several stages. Customers can choose between a rental model (Robotics as a Service, RaaS) and their own Centre of Excellence (CoE). Either way, Rhenus Robotics supports companies throughout their entire RPA journey.
In the rental variant, Robotics as a Service, Rhenus Robotics takes over the infrastructure and commissioning of the software robots. In the beginning, Robotics experts help analysing the automation potential of a company’s processes and further discuss each workflow in detail.Experienced developers then take over the individual development of the software robots. In this option, the Rhenus Robotics team is responsible for operating and hosting the robots. The advantage of this solution is that companies only pay for the implementation and the actual usage later based on the number of hours. In addition, companies benefit from the certified know-how of Rhenus Robotics consultants and developers, with whom the departments work together towards the success of the project.
The CoE option allows Rhenus Robotics to support companies in establishing their own RPA team, a so-called Centre of Excellence. This way companies can manage the implementation and growth of their automation projects within the company, embed RPA sustainably, effectively and quickly in the organisation, and leverage the accumulated knowledge for future projects. In the case of this variant, Rhenus Robotics primarily supports the development of the competence centre and offers trainings to optimally prepare all employees. Companies can easily obtain the software licence from Rhenus Robotics, which is also available to answer any questions that might come up.
On the Rhenus Robotics website, companies can find even more insights about the benefits of RPA, specific use cases and an overview of the partner network as well as solution offerings.
With a passion for innovative solutions, intelligent process automation and forward-looking business models, Lena Halberstadt supports customers as they introduce analogue processes to the digital world. Thanks to her relevant experience in sales, marketing and strategy development, she is organising the digital future of many companies!
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