Robotic process automation (RPA) automates tedious and repetitive tasks by entrusting them to bots. With RPA, maintenance providers can improve productivity and quality of service and accelerate task execution.
Automation simulates human actions
RPA may be just three letters, but the topic has generated a lot of discussion. Robotic process automation, the ability to use robots to automate business processes is not a new concept, but it’s being increasingly adopted by companies looking for productivity gains. And, that’s made it a hot topic.
RPA is often incorrectly compared to chatbots. But, these bots have no way of conversing with users. RPA is basically chunks of code that eliminate time-consuming and repetitive tasks in the workplace. Robots mimic the mechanical actions employees take in front of their computers to collect and process information.
Employees often have to juggle multiple open windows and applications that to not interact with one another on their computer screens, executing numerous copy-paste functions and keyboard shortcuts to complete tasks. With RPA, robots simulate human actions and interoperate with different internal and external systems to capture information, enrich it, and repurpose it. In its simplest application, RPA can be used to provide different automatic responses based on the subject of received emails.
Save 15 to 30% of employees’ time
Bots can free up 15 to 30% of employees’ time so they can devote themselves to higher value tasks. RPA can also help to eliminate human errors related to data entry and execution speed. And, because they’re available 24/7, robots can ultimately improve quality of service.
A market worth nearly $3 billion by 2021
Numbers talk. According to Forrester, the RPA market will grow from $250 million in 2016 to $2.9 billion by 2021. By that time, more than 4 million software robots will automate a large number of back office and front office processes, the research firm says.
The market is moving very quickly. The leader, Romanian-founded UiPath, is valued at $3 billion, while French company, Contextor, was just purchased by SAP. In late January 2019, American company, Automation Anywhere, announced its expansion to France.
There are two types of robots in the RPA. Unattended RPA bots are autonomous. They’re installed on a server and operate in the background with no human intervention. Attended bots are installed on the user’s workstation and the user retains control over process automation.
Improve software and hardware maintenance
While financial professions initially seised on RPA, it’s also very useful for support functions such as maintenance services. The first idea that springs to mind is software maintenance. From an IT perspective, RPA can automate application deployment, updates and patches. It can also help system administrators configure a room full of PCs and servers.
Automate IT processes
RPA also enables IT service management (ITSM) and IT process utomation (ITPA). Consider an incident management scenario. A bot can use business rules to provide an immediate response to an incident that impacts critical processes to reduce the number of technicians that need to be on-call.
In terms of hardware maintenance, RPA can be used to reduce downtime. Once the system identifies the defective machine, the bot can automatically trigger a request for identically configured replacement hardware, order any missing parts needed for the repair, and send a summary email to the end user.
Optimise billing, enrich reporting
RPA can also be used in related areas. For example, it can optimise billing in an even more fine-tuned way than application programming interfaces (APIs) by connecting field service management software to accounting software. Each company can design a customised workflow that’s a perfect fit for its organisation.
In terms of reporting, a bot can be used to fetch data from different databases and repositories, then consolidate them. For example, to calculate the overall cost of a service call, the bot can collect data about fuel consumption, vehicle maintenance and depreciation then enrich that information with data from the field service management software.
Automate HR processes
With many companies facing a shortage of maintenance technicians and strong competition for talent, bots can be used to automate and accelerate recruiting processes. For example, in the recruiting phase, offer letters and employment contracts can be automatically emailed to successful candidates.
During onboarding of new recruits, bots can link together information from HR, IT and administrative service groups during each stage of new employee integration — visiting the premises, signing administrative documents, providing entry badges, allocating workspaces.
Artificial intelligence plays a role
RPA capabilities will continue to evolve. With advances in artificial intelligence such as machine learning and deep learning, automation will become more and more intelligent. In the relatively near future, bots will be able to make decisions on their own to automate more complex tasks without human intervention.
Today, RPA solutions such as those from UiPath already integrate cognitive capabilities including optical character recognition (OCR), computer vision, image and shape recognition, voice recognition and natural language processing. Tomorrow, they will be able to analyse feelings to better understand user intent.