How SMBs Can Benefit from Robotic Process Automation
A recent study by Business Wire shows that no matter your industry or the size of your business, you can benefit significantly from Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Whether you’re in the retail industry struggling with invoices or the automotive space facing assembly challenges, RPA can be of great help. The Business Wire report gives an example of the Scandinavian Logistics Partners AB (Scan Log). Scan Log, a fast-growing mid-sized logistics company, specializing in international transportation, decided to implement RPA to help transform their order booking process. The results were phenomenal! Within a year of implementing RPA, Scan Log’s average handling time per customer order fell from four minutes to just 20 seconds. Within two years, the company had received a 15% return on investment.
Scan Log’s case is just one of many success stories among businesses that have implemented robotic process automation. From the medical industry to aviation and even finance, there are many other success stories. Below, we look at the reasons why you should hop on the bandwagon too. First, though, what is robotic process automation?
Defining Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic process automation refers to the introduction of a software robot to replicate repetitive tasks usually carried out by human workers. RPA software programs perform tasks within the graphical user interface (GUI) at high speed and with great accuracy. Among others, an RPA can perform the following functions;
- Merging data into reports and filling out templates
- Automating existing workflows to streamline repetitive tasks
- Moving data between spreadsheets and analytics software
- Entering customer data into text fields
It’s important to remember, however, that RPA robots are software programs and not physical creatures that take up space within the office. The software programs are developed by coders and mapped to a process or workflow to perform the required task(s).
RPA differs from workflow automation tools such as VBA scripts, macros, and other script-based programs that organizations often employ on the backend through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) in two ways.
- Unlike the script-based programs, RPA workflow processes are controlled by software programs that mimic human input actions.
- RPA programs only work on the front end user interface (UI).
Benefits of Robotic Process Automation Small Businesses
“Robotic Process Automation is what you make of it,” says Stephen J. Andriole, a business professor at Villanova School of Business. “Small businesses, in particular, can make use of the technology to resolve many stubborn business processes and whole business models.”
Many organizations that have implemented the technology primarily use it to automate data entry procedures in workflow processes, extract data from standard databases, and for routine static decision-making processes.
Other core capabilities of RPA software include the following;
- Data entry (order, invoice, etc.)
- Running and downloading reports
- Preparing templates
- Reconciling data
- Posting documents into a system
- Applying static business rules
- Reading and replying to emails
When applied in these areas, efficiency and productivity are boosted. SMBs can also expect the following;
- Lower operating costs
Many studies have been conducted on this aspect of RPA programs, with varying results. What’s evident, though, is that RPM helps reduce operating costs. One study by Simplicity found that it reduces costs by as much as 80%.
The reduction is often as a result of reduced staff requirements for bookkeeping and data entry tasks. Better still, RPA robots can perform transactions much faster than human workers. They also free up workers from clerical duties.
- Improved documentation
When it comes to document management in the office, accuracy is one of the biggest challenges. Every document has to be filed in the correct format and compliance with industry standards and practices. Since industry laws and regulations change every so often, keeping all records up to date is never easy.
RPA tools help you create robust audit trails, ensuring compliance, and decreasing business risk. In finance, for example, the tools ensure that all your processes are accurate, thus enhancing your management of tax records and cash flow.
- Eliminates manual errors
Finally, RPA tools are also valuable in eliminating common data management errors. RPA reduces keying errors, for example, because data from invoices, receipts, or any other sources is directly transferred from PDF files and spreadsheets into the intended database, such as a ledger entry or invoice management tool.
Additionally, RPA tools support data validation and verification. They can verify data during the entry process against the central database. For small businesses, an RPA program would also help you check vendors listed in the vendor master file. The detailed verification and validation process leaves no room for common errors.
Challenges to RPA Implementation
Adopting robotic process automation, however, isn’t a smooth sailing process. According to organizations that have already implemented or attempted to implement the technology, several challenges complicate the process.
These often include but are not limited to;
- Employee resistance and onboarding
- Setting up realistic expectations
- RPA maintenance
- Infrastructure issues
- Process analysis issues
Overcoming these challenges is crucial to successful RPA implementation. You need proper planning to implement the technology throughout the organization. Also, you need to recruit the right team for implementation and post-implementation adoption. Above all, RPA solutions are different. And you must find the right solution for your organization.
Tips for Successful RPA Implementation
Professor Andriole points out that the maximum benefits of the technology can only be realized if businesses implement it alongside other Business Process Management (BPM) solutions. Even more importantly, he warns against trying to implement RPA in every area of the business.
To avoid the technical complexities and challenges often associated with robotic process automation, it’s also recommended that you lay the ground before implementing RPA. A few things you need to address before the implementation include;
- Standardize your processes
- Commit to a clear ROI
- Clean the organization’s data
- Preparing to reorganize workers and the workspace
Still on the Fence
United Perfectum is a leader in digital commerce solutions. We help SMBs discover and implement emerging technologies to boost the business bottom line. Let us help you understand and implement RPA to increase efficiency, productivity, and business growth.