Four RPA pilots manufacturers can’t miss as part of their digital transformation journey

Leading analysts predict that global spending on business process automation OR RPA software will reach USD 2.4 billion by 2022. Further, by the end of 2022, 85 % of large enterprises will deploy Business Process Automation using RPA tools in some way or the other. The current COVID-19 crisis is going to accelerate this spend further by non-linear means to overcome the resource unavailability whenever and wherever required. Business process automation is helping enterprises optimize costs, improve stakeholder productivity, adhere better to compliance, and build agility in the system. We discuss four real-life pragmatic use cases in manufacturing that have helped companies drastically improve their supply chain efficiency and productivity with high levels of ROI. Read on

Business process automation has sparked a revolution in how manufacturers approach their systems and processes. It is not only about reducing manual effort anymore; today, manufacturers are looking to drive innovation and build agile organizations that run on accelerated processes end to end. A slew of next-gen technologies enables this – most importantly, robotic process automation (RPA), with smaller investments and more significant gains.

RPA is among the more mature technology markets ahead of manufacturers. Unlike emerging tools like Blockchain or Mixed Reality, RPA has witnessed a significant amount of investment in the last few years.

Experts reported that the global market size for industrial automation stood at $157.04 billion in 2018. From hereon, analysts predict that the market size will reach $296.7 billion by 2026, growing at a healthy CAGR of 8.4%. The adoption of Industry 4.0 trends is among the key drivers for this growth, as technologies like IoT and AI enter the factory floor, opening up new areas for automation. Traditional RPA was limited to rules-based workflows, where manufacturing stakeholders could execute processes as per a specific set of business rules. This approach was rather rigid, unable to handle exceptional scenarios. But IoT and AI have pushed RPA capabilities into third gear, allowing manufacturers to:

  • Gather a vast amount of data through IoT before making an automated decision
  • Ensure that multiple variables are assessed via AI to unlock the most optimal choice possible

And business leaders are bullish about investing in RPA. One estimate by the London School of Economics suggests that ROI from robotic technologies can be anywhere between 600% and 800% for specific tasks. Given the sheer volume of manufacturing tasks that could gain from RPA, impacts on the bottom line would be massive. While adding value to our clients through intelligent automation, we’ve come across four bright areas that are noteworthy:

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1. Faster and smarter onboarding of new suppliers

RPA can help to break down the silos that plague supplier onboarding processes. It powers automated Electronic Data Exchange (EDI) to seamlessly and securely share data across various stakeholders. Instead of processing complex paper documents, RPA quickly scans supplier data to populate a manufacturer’s ERP.

Consider how the automotive manufacturer, Yazaki, recently adopted RPA to accelerate customer and supplier onboarding. Through automated provisioning, Yazaki can reduce the time required to add new trading partners, facilitating uninterrupted data flows across its 120 locations and 100s of customers/suppliers

READ MORE: Case study –  Fortune 500 auto major Implements RPA solution to transform its supply chain finance

2. Greater collaboration with manufacturer freight forwarders

Traditionally, freight management was fraught with manual dependencies, with human executives needed to transfer data during load matching and other critical operational moments of truth. RPA makes these processes, simpler while also providing a platform where manufacturers, freight brokers, and carriers can now collaborate.

RPA can make a difference in other aspects of freight handling as well, like suggesting the best possible transport route and managing freight claims/payments. 2019 saw a significant move in this space, with logistics provider – Convoy – announcing a 100% automated practice for matching manufacturing loads to freight trucks.

READ MORE: Case study –  Global auto leader implements an RPA solution to automate freight and logistics for streamlined operations

3. Predictive planning for supply chains

In the Industry 4.0 era, manufacturers should be able to anticipate demand flux and scale up/down their inventory accordingly. Such predictive capabilities will make supply chains more agile and ready to monetize business opportunities with jeopardizing the margin.

In the Industry 4.0 era, manufacturers should be able to anticipate demand flux and scale up/down their inventory accordingly. Such predictive capabilities will make supply chains more agile and ready to monetize business opportunities with jeopardizing the margin.

RPA platforms connect and collate disparate data from a variety of sources, ranging from operational industrial IoT systems to customer insights from the CRM. This method helps to plan procurement and supply, optimizing manufacturing performance accurately. Intelligent RPA can even go as far as to recommend the right decisions for supply chain managers, given the data set at hand. Research from EY confirms that planning for future material requirements and energy consumption will be among the key business benefits, manufacturers can expect from RPA.

READ MORE: Case study –  Automotive leader implements RPA solution to de-risk its inventory management and reduce stockouts

4. Greater agility through backorder automation

Safety stock calculation is one of the vital back-end processes for manufacturing enterprises, preventing the risk of stockout or order fulfillment uncertainties. Accurate measurement of safety stock helps to maintain business continuity and profitability.

The manual method relies on a manufacturing executive studying historical data or previous consumption to calculate safety stock. RPA turns this around on its head by factoring in a comprehensive library of data sets, updated dynamically. It also offers visibility into future demand, enabling accurate forecasting.

READ MORE: Case study –  Auto major implements RPA solution to automate warehouse operations and streamline customer order fulfillment

While these four use cases are among the most areas of application, RPA in manufacturing has far broader potential. Across the world, enterprises are using RPA and intelligent automation in smart, innovative ways to extract business value.

Consider how aerospace lighting manufacturer, Astronics LSI, is turning to automation to address an emerging skills gap. Astronics operates in an extremely niche space, requiring careful manual efforts. It is also a highly regulated industry, requiring every component and manufactured item to follow a strict standard set by the federal aviation administration. Astronics is eager to leverage technology to automate manual tasks such as picking and placing. This act will dramatically reduce talent needs, allowing the company to scale.

Chemicals manufacturer, Eastman, approaches RPA differently. Rather than targeting standalone tasks, the company wanted to streamline its sprawling operations – with 15000+ employees and $10 billion in annual revenues. Eastman used an RPA platform to reimagine overarching processes like sales and workplace collaboration.

Stories like these illustrate the multi-faceted import of RPA in manufacturing. As enterprise leaders look at embracing Industry 4.0, our attention must shift to the optimal and meaningful utilization of human talent. RPA is a critical cog in this journey, using the robust capabilities of machine intelligence to drive strategic human action.

At Birlasoft, we leverage intelligent automation to drive industry 4.0 transformation programs for our clients. For any requests related to your business problems, product demos, and exploratory workshops, fill out the form below, and we'll get back to you soonest.

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