Manufacturers in several different industries are already using physical robots to make their products. Despite the improvements these robots have made in the assembly line, the manufacturing industry continues to face significant issues when it comes to automating back-office and operational processes. These include problems in keeping up with new regulations and finding skilled labor, as well as issues surrounding inventory management, procurement, and customer communications.
The good news is that robotic process automation (RPA) is beginning to have an impact on many of these problem areas as more and more manufacturers automate processes ranging from accounts receivable and accounts payable to invoice processing and purchase order management. Doing so has helped to increase manufacturer efficiency, reduce manual errors, and save time, leading to a more agile back-office, more streamlined operations, and cost savings across the board. RPA has also helped manufacturers to improve levels of regulatory compliance, produce real-time process monitoring and analytics, replace paper with digital platforms, and digitize communications.
Despite the obvious benefits, some manufacturers are still hesitant to make the jump to RPA. Their reluctance is due, in large part, to their concerns about introducing potential risks that could threaten stable processes and frustrate both customers and employees.
To help minimize any risks associated with shifting to RPA while still reaping its substantial benefits, manufacturers should consider these five key steps.
- Go slowly: Excited by the potential benefits of RPA, many manufacturers are tempted to jump into the deep end by introducing the new technology to multiple processes at once. Manufacturers would be better served to start slowly. Begin by researching and identifying which processes would benefit most from RPA, then implement and make sure these processes are running smoothly before moving on to the next implementation.
- Keep it simple: Initially, manufacturers should plan for RPA to handle typical, routine information flow. More complex rules and exceptions can be added later as employees become more familiar and comfortable with the new processes.
- Put together some early wins: Recognize that some level of disruption is inevitable. Manufacturers should introduce RPA by initially focusing on those processes that are likely to be relatively easy to change. Getting them running smoothly will provide a win right out of the gate, helping to calm the fears of workers who have their doubts about the benefits of RPA.
- Educate and communicate: RPA can represent a major change to a manufacturer’s business processes. It’s important to take the time to make sure employees are aware of the likely changes RPA will bring about and how it will impact their jobs. Allow for sufficient time and money for everyone from managers and IT staff to line workers to get comfortable with the changes that will occur.
- Sustain the change: Manufacturers must recognize that their work is not done once RPA implementation is complete. To sustain RPA’s impact, manufacturers should invest in a proven process platform to capture and store automated processes. This will allow them to be easily updated and accessible to employees anytime, anywhere.
Just as robots have streamlined the assembly line, robotic process automation can improve manufacturers’ back-office and operational processes. The key is to proceed methodically while encouraging employee involvement. Doing so will engender a sense of ownership that will help to reduce risks associated with implementing RPA.
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