Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) refers to software tools that partially or fully automate human-activities which are manual, repetitive, and rule-based. They function by reproducing the actions that humans perform, while using software applications to carry out clerical tasks such as data entry, processing standard transactions, and replying to customer queries (e.g: chat bots).

 

RPA has grown rapidly over the years. It was a $250 million industry in 2016,  and is projected to be worth $2.9 billion by 2021.

 

RPA systems were extensively adopted by financial service firms to perform business practices without the need to increase staff. It continues to be used in industries such as financial services, healthcare, retail, and human resources.

How Is Robotic Process Automation Used?

RPA uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities to perform large scale, repetitive functions that would otherwise be performed by humans.

Certain processes can be automated to improve the efficiency and accuracy with which a particular task is performed without the costs associated with hiring more staff.

RPA software could be classified into three kinds:

  • Probots: These are automated programs that perform simple, repetitive tasks for processing data.
  • Knowbots: These bots scour the internet to collect and save user-requested information.
  • Chatbots: These are virtual representatives that can instantly answer consumer questions and provide guidance.

Some common uses for robotic process automation are:

  • Providing customer service: Robotic process automations can automate customer service center tasks such as approving e-signatures or gathering and checking scanned documents.
  • Performing accounting tasks: Robotic process automations are capable of completing tasks related to various accounting activities and reports.
  • Supply chain managements: RPA can be used for supply chain management functions such as acquisition, streamlining order procedures and transactions, checking stock levels, and verifying shipments.

A comparison between the manual process approach and the robotic process automation approach for creating an invoice is shown in the following table.

  Manual Process Robotic Process Automation
1. Worker periodically logs into system to check for new orders Software pulls data from customer systems and checks for new purchase orders
2. Worker confirms a request and then validates the purchase order New purchase orders are downloaded and then pushed into the legacy system
3. Worker applies specific pricing and discounts to the order based on client’s specific contract Worker manually checks and validates the order once its confirmed to be accurate based on customer contract terms
4. Worker applies an additional discount, if outlined in protocol The software uploads the purchase order into Oracle
5. The purchase order is shipped and invoiced with some error Discounts are automatically applied based on customer agreements

As you can see, some human input is still required in the third step of the automated process; however, it is far less than the amount generally required to do the whole process manually. This ease of automation has made RPA popular with companies that wish to automate low-value tasks.

The Benefits of Robotic Process Automation

The most obvious benefit of robotic process automation is lower costs. Bots are typically low-cost and easy to implement, requiring no custom software or extensive system integration.

Many of the other benefits of RPA are related to the shortcomings or issues you would otherwise have with staff such as human error or interpersonal friction between staff.

The benefits of using RPA are:

  • Allowing staff to focus on high-value tasks while RPA performs low-value ones.
  • Improved efficiency when performing tasks due to RPA’s ability to retrieve necessary data in the background.
  • Ensuring outputs are complete, correct, and consistent between tasks and human workers

Hyper Automation

Hyper automation is defined as dealing with the application of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent business management software (iBPMS) and machine learning (ML) with the goal of increasingly AI-driven decision making.
It also refers to the sophistication of the various steps of automation, which are:

Discover > Analyze > Design > Automate > Measure > Monitor > Reassess

Hyper automation differs from RPA in that it takes ecosystems of technologically advanced tools and combines them to create new ways of working. For example, RPA refers to the ability of a bot to perform a particular task efficiently, whereas hyper automation refers to the bot’s intelligence brain which reviews the task process and performs said task in a smarter way.

With hyper automation low value tasks can be performed better using automation tools, machine learning, and advanced artificial intelligence with minimal human input.

Using Hyper Automation

Hyper automation involves more than just a single piece of software. To carry out hyper automation businesses need to adopt tools and softwares that can be set up to work together.

This means integrating AI systems in various forms such as natural language processing (NLP) that uses bots to transcribe human speech into written words and optical character recognition (OCR) that uses bots to convert information from images to readable text.

 

How Will Robotic Process Automation and Hyper Automation Affect Employment?

Some people have speculated that could threaten employment prospects for a subset of workers whose jobs don’t require significant amounts of human interaction. However, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Automation should be viewed as a both an inevitable change and as a potential opportunity. It can make it easier to perform otherwise laborious tasks, and hyper automation can add an additional layer of intelligence to make that task even more productive or efficient.

Most jobs consist of a variety of tasks, many of which may not be easily automatable. If automation were to occur, it wouldn’t eliminate your job, but eliminate dull, tedious, and repetitive tasks.

Automation will continue to become popular in the future. Therefore it’s best that businesses learn to embrace and adapt to the inevitable in order to stay ahead of the competition. Competition that may view automation as the technological breakthrough they’ve been waiting for.

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