Robot Process Automation

Your guide to robotic process automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is technology that helps people set up computer software, or a robot, to replicate and execute simple tasks that humans would ordinarily have to do. It’s focused on business processes, such as data entry, data analysis and other rudimentary tasks.

RPA robots interpret and communicate with other systems to perform a wide range of laborious tasks. With RPA, the accuracy of tasks such as data entry increases significantly because it is being managed by an AI script that never needs to sleep, makes no mistakes and has an unwavering attention to detail.

In this guide, we explore what robotic process automation means, its applications, its benefits and discuss how Wax Digital makes use of the technology.

RPA sounds like AI – what’s the difference?

Picture of an AI concept

Simply put, AI can learn and improve itself over time. On its own, RPA will never teach itself to get better and will remain at whatever level it’s been programmed at. It will never think, it will simply just do whatever it has been proscribed to do.

RPA can be improved with AI because is designed to think. It could, in theory, analyse a process being undertaken by your organisation and opt to augment or skip certain steps to increase productivity. RPA on its own would never do this, it’s only focused on getting its task done.

In the diagram below, we demonstrate the differences between RPA, machine learning and AI:

RPA benefits

Process automation

RPA can bring numerous benefits to your organisations. Here are four of the most important:

Increases throughput – instead of being curtailed by a 9-5 or other shift pattern, RPA works all day, every single day, ensuring that productivity is prioritised. This means you’ll get more work done

It’s very efficient – if they have electricity, machines will never stop working and they’ll get whatever it is they’re doing right, 100% of the time, reducing the threshold for costly mistakes

RPA is cost-effective – broadly speaking, the technology will save your business money. While the initial outlay might be pricey, it can handle many more repetitive, laborious tasks than 100 employees can.

It’s fast too – RPA will handle tasks around four to five times faster than people.

Six applications of robotic process automation

#1 – Call centre tasks

Many phone call or related contacts in call centres can be supported with RPA technology. RPA can support human-based operators with detailed statistics and notes, consolidated across myriad systems. It can also help call centre agents raise invoices, if appropriate, by simply pressing a button. It’s designed to reduce the amount of time staff spend completing manual tasks, and instead allows them to focus on delivering excellent customer service.

#2 – Credit card applications

Most applications for credit are now handled by RPA. They can be programmed to handle the entire end-to-end process for requesting credit, including background checks, credit scoring, employment checks as well as determining if the applicant can afford finance in the initial instance. If the candidate is successful in obtaining credit, RPA will automatically request a card or funds to be issued to the applicant.

#3 – Scheduling systems

Shipping systems can benefit from RPA as it can be quite time-consuming manually scheduling, updating and reporting shipment status between myriad system. What RPA can do is extract shipment requests from incoming emails, issue jobs in your scheduling systems and offer pick-up times in customer and carrier portals.

#4 – CRM updates

Entering data into a CRM is a dull, time-consuming process that nobody wants to do. Whether you work in sales or marketing, the last thing you want to do is enter prospect or lead data into your CRM.

Instead, you’d be better served selling to prospects or being creating compelling copy for a range of marketing collateral. However, data about prospects and leads is vital to the sales and marketing process and helps you make strategic decisions. RPA can help automate much of data entry, allowing you to focus on the more important tasks.

#5 – Payroll processing

For payroll, RPA can save finance professionals time by linking up disparate systems to save them time navigating between things like time tracking, HR, accounts payable and general ledger.

Instead, RPA bridges the gap between these systems, transmits vital information and does all the legwork so finance personnel can dedicate their time to other business-critical tasks.

#6 – Order processing

eCommerce organisations like Amazon have become some of the biggest and most important organisations in the world, and a key part of their success is RPA.

Ordering goods, if done manually, can be a time-consuming operation. Things like address verification, entering customer details, printing invoices, shipping labels and inventory management and reordering are all manual tasks and can take up precious time.

RPA can automate all the above, so all warehouse staff must do is pick and pack packages to send.

What elements of procurement can be automated with RPA?

purchase order

There are many tasks that can be automated using RPA. We’ve compiled an extensive list below:

Contract management – instead of humans needing to manually review every single contract that comes through the procurement department, RPA can ease the load. A bot can review contracts, irrespective of whether it’s digital or not, against standard templates and illustrate non-standard terms and conditions. RPA will them send a summary to the human reviewer to use in supplier negotiations.

Supplier onboarding – onboarding supplier is lengthy, repetitive and manual. Bots can automate many tasks associated with vetting including:

  • Background checks
  • Supplier documents review
  • Following up on missing information

Category management – RPA can classify procurement transactions as they requisitioned, using machine learning to identify likely category assignments based on the requisition’s text. If the information is insufficient to assign a category, the bot can initiate follow-up questions to the requisitioner or to the supplier to identify spend category.

How Wax Digital uses robotic process automation

We’ve produced a video to demonstrate how we use RPA in our flagship product web3. Watch it below:

We’ve also produced an RPA briefing document where we discuss the merits of the technology in more detail and discuss how our clients make use of it. You can access the report by following this link.

What do you think about RPA? Is it something you use in your organisation? Do you think RPA is useful of harmful to the procurement industry? Let us know on our Twitter and LinkedIn pages.