In the wake of hyper-digitization, manufacturers are leveraging advanced technologies like RPA, IoT, and AI to make their processes more efficient. The requirement of each manufacturing business is different based on industry and target customers, but many of their back-end processes are similar. Here RPA adds value with a mix of benefits like reducing costs, improving process quality, productivity and compliance adherence, and a lot more. Numerous companies have implemented RPA in manufacturing with mixed results. Some businesses hesitate to adopt RPA, and those with stalled implementations seek to pivot, modify, or resume their implementations. However, these companies are now seeking to expand their RPA implementation in a manner that is both cost-effective and efficient.
Companies encountered technological and operational constraints when using standard off-the-shelf RPA solutions that need customization. Their current systems handle large amounts of unstructured data, a capability that is lacking in their current vendor\’s solution. Moreover, others faced constraints with the automation of end-to-end processes. Enterprises with interconnected systems across business functions often need help with smooth RPA implementation.
With the new entrants in the market, new updates and software releases by the existing vendors, and changes to identifying the right processes for automation are enabling manufacturing companies to overcome the hindrances in successful RPA implementation. The combination of these variables is enabling manufacturers to optimize their stalled RPA implementation or those who experienced good results to scale RPA cost-efficiently.
According to Grandview Research, the global RPA market was valued at USD 2,322.9 million in 2022 and is projected to achieve a CAGR of 39.9% from 2023 to 2030. This data shows a progressive approach toward the adoption of RPA.
The enhanced interest in RPA is further reinstated by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the digital arm of Manufacturing Leadership Council USA, which found in its survey that 83% of respondents cited reducing cost and improving productivity as key motivations to invest in digital technology.
According to MLC Co-Founder and Vice President and Executive Director David R. Brousell, “Manufacturers are increasingly discovering various use cases and business benefits associated with the utilization of digital technology. Furthermore, the rate at which they are adopting these technologies is rapidly accelerating.”
New Players in the Market
New players have jumped into the scene, and they are changing the dynamics of RPA implementation in the manufacturing industry. For example, Electroneek is a new entry in the market that has introduced AI Generator Workflow functionality in its Platform 9.5.12 Release. It allows users to create workflows simply by using Natural Language descriptions. The AI workflow can quickly identify the gap between human-readable instructions and the processes executed by the machines. This feature allows both expert and novice RPA developers to build workflows using the text descriptions. Its benefits are quick time to market and effort minimization in building robust RPA solutions.
A medium-sized pharmaceutical manufacturing company utilized an RPA solution from Automation Anywhere with mixed results. They hesitated to invest heavily in a new RPA solution and decided to evaluate Electroneek to automate the accounting process. Their key challenge was to streamline the key accounts management that involved identifying and managing long-term relationships with prominent hospital chains and payers by adhering to US GAAP guidelines (ASC 606) about various contracts and arrangements with different customers. There was a need to identify contracts with given customers, analyze performance obligations, decide the transaction costs, and then allocate transaction price according to performance obligations in the contract, and recognize the revenue generated when performance obligations were satisfied.
They leveraged the custom-pricing option with Electroneek, which helped them sustain their existing vendor’s services and optimize their core process with a pay-as-you-go model rather than paying an upfront licensing cost.
New Approach to Process Selection
Now, businesses prefer to scale their RPA investments and remove all roadblocks to its successful implementation. A significant shift is observed toward the approach to analyze which processes need to be automated based on complexity, the volume of transactions, and chances of discrepancies, the cost involved, the impact of delivery, and total potential hours saved with automation annually. Using ROI calculators and RPA assessment tools, the companies can assess the outcome they intend to achieve from their RPA investment or evaluate their willingness to go ahead with the automation of their complicated processes and scale it effortlessly.
A consumer electronics manufacturer juggled with the complexity of gaining the financial transparency associated with expense management. The documentation, like payment receipts, had information like different currencies, dates, and lists of expenses typed on the receipts. Employees had to struggle by taking images of the receipts and uploading them onto the payment solution system that used Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to identify and extract information from the images. Rather than take a lightweight process to pilot their RPA strategy, they opted to streamline this entire process which would deliver a visible impact for the end users and an investment ROI for the management. With RPA and an AI-enabled expense solution, the data was accurately identified and captured, and the information retrieved from the sheets was automatically converted into reports.
API First Approach for Process Automation
Earlier, RPA vendors employed screen scraping to automate the tasks, but now the new entrants in the market are leading with an API-first approach. Even the integration vendors are leveraging the new approach to benefit their customers. Using API integration to automate the process is a more reliable approach combined with the use of authentication and encryption to extract data from other systems and protect data at the same time. This approach is gaining popularity across industries as API-based integration is highly relevant, particularly in high-throughput and areas where large-scale operations are conducted and need a clear focus on performance metrics and business analytics. Therefore, all vulnerabilities while extracting data from other systems are minimized with the usage of API. The pure-play RPA solution providers combine screen scraping and API integration to offer these capabilities to their customers.
Latest Updates and Releases by Existing Vendors
UiPath, a leader in RPA, is bringing Generative AI into Specialized AI with their automation capabilities that will allow users to identify, automate, and scale their operations effortlessly. It supports Azure AI and Open AI connectors while providing integrations with GPT-4. Its Specialized AI encompasses 70 data models that enable customers to understand screens, optimize task-mining, and leverage unique, proprietary data sets within the workflows. Generative AI is extending automation capabilities for enterprises at scale.
An aerospace manufacturing company wanted to streamline its financial processes, but existing vendor capabilities limited its potential to leverage the benefits of RPA solution. But now, with UIPath’s latest update, the finance department is ready to leverage the power of Generative AI and Specialized AI to streamline their financial operations with a summary of financial performance, generating scenarios to test the impact of variables on the financial outcomes and optimize automation deeper into their finance operations and churn that data into actionable insights.
Automation Anywhere, a leading global software company, announces its partnership with Google Cloud to introduce the combination of Generative AI and Intelligent Automation to accelerate the usage of AI in every enterprise. By leveraging Google’s Large Language Models(LLM) via Vertex AI, Automation Anywhere is launching new Generative AI features in their Automation Success platform. Users automate both front-end and back-end tasks using Automation Success platform like HR, finance, and IT, and now, with Generative AI models in Vertex AI, businesses can optimize natural language to explain their requirement and see it happen in action form in Automation Anywhere platform. Thus, AI models automate processes faster and more accurately than ever before.
The industries dealing with unstructured and heavy volume data, not limited to healthcare, legal, and finance, will benefit from these automation capabilities.
Microsoft has acquired Softomotive to enhance its low-code RPA capabilities in the Power Automate Platform. With the combination of low-code desktop automation with WinAutomation and existing capabilities of the Power Automate platform, the users can build bots effectively using Softomotive’s set of connectors, and applications developed around Java, SAP, Citrix, legacy terminal screens, and a lot more. Now, customers can automate their legacy tasks on the desktop or cloud. Moreover, existing users of Power Automate can leverage new capabilities at no additional costs as they have existing RPA-attended licenses in Power Automate.
A medium-sized apparel manufacturing company utilized Power Automate to streamline its back-end processes. But, recently, they launched a footwear segment as well and wanted to automate processes in parallel with their existing workflows for optimized processes and efficient bots. With Microsoft’s acquisition of Softomotive, the manufacturing firm benefitted from extended capabilities and started leveraging multiple workflows simultaneously, and that too on the same machine, which helped to reduce latency and optimize their operations.
High Impact Use Cases With Rapid RoI:
Accounts Payable and Invoice Processing: A medium to large-scale manufacturing unit often deals with multiple vendors, and there are long and tedious manual processes that need to be aligned to ensure accuracy and timely payments. Using RPA with OCR, the invoices are validated against pre-determined data sets, and accuracy is ensured with cross-checking of documents. Once all data sets are verified, the payments are streamlined via workflows. It helps to clear all the backlogs in the payment and ensure that timely payments are made, along with enabling early payment discounts and establishing a good rapport with the vendors.
Inventory Management: A manufacturing firm relies heavily on accurate inventory management to ensure the supply chain is streamlined and customers receive timely deliveries. Having RPA at the back end of operations plays a significant role in managing inventory smartly and ensuring 3-way matching with purchase orders, invoices raised, and sales receipts are aligned, and payment is made swiftly. Any exception is immediately flagged off and taken care of to ensure inventory is maintained smoothly.
Payroll Management: A large-scale manufacturing organization usually needs help maintaining payroll management as it incorporates various factors like salary, taxes, bonuses, and payments on a contractual basis handled by the HR department. Manually this task is error-prone, of high volume, and any discrepancy may also lead to untimely payments. Therefore, automating this task with RPA helps streamline the whole process with speed and accuracy and ensures transparency in the entire process.
Regulatory Compliance: With many regulations in the manufacturing industry, it is crucial to have an automated process that ensures all processes are followed promptly. There are different regulatory compliances based on the industry that manufacturers have to cater to, and these include Federal Trade Commission (FDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to name a few. With RPA, rule-based workflows are created to ensure each step is followed and synchronized with compliance procedures, and any exception is triggered, enabling a responsible person to take immediate action and avoid hefty penalties.
As technology disrupts the business landscape, the manufacturing industry opens up to these changes. We understand the challenges of the manufacturing industry and are equipped with domain expertise and technology capabilities to support our customers with the latest RPA releases either by existing market players or new entrants. With certified professionals in all leading RPA vendors like Uipath, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, and new entrants like Electroneek, Trigent supports its customers to stay ahead of the curve and leverage new RPA technologies to make the most of their RPA investments. Moreover, with our RPA ROI calculator, businesses can assess their returns on the RPA investment and make informed decisions. In addition, our custom RPA solutions enable our customers to optimize their processes and gain operational efficiencies.