Editor's Choice

From the editor's desk: The virtual business assistant

8 June 2020 Editor's Choice

Have you ever wished someone would automate the daily grind of routine tasks and set you free to focus on the more engaging aspects of your job? Imagine a robot sitting in front of your computer capable of invoking the same applications and executing the same keystrokes that you would usually make.

Enter robotic process automation (RPA), a disruptive workplace technology that uses software 'robots' to mimic many of the repetitive interactions human beings have with their computers. It performs such tasks faster than us people, and also eliminates the errors we are prone to make. These bots act directly across an application’s user interface, logging themselves in and out, entering data, and even computing the end results.

However, as is true of most automation, RPA only translates into competitive advantage when it is applied in the right context. Applied inappropriately, the bots are quite likely to run amok, and leave more work for the human operators to clean up than if they had just done the job themselves in the first place.

So what are the criteria for a successful RPA implementation in a manufacturing context?

Well, first of all, the chosen tasks must be repetitive in nature; and second, RPA is best applied where the repetitive process is also highly susceptible to human error. Examples of where these conditions are likely to exist in a manufacturing company include order processing, bills of materials, inventory reports, regulatory compliance, and customer communication. RPA can deal with involved processes such as matching large volumes of transactions, certifying account reconciliations, or even collecting and compiling data for complex financial reports. Robots are arguably better than humans at performing such tasks since they do not need to take breaks and are not prone to boredom when tasks are prolonged and mundane.

The close of the third industrial revolution was marked by the introduction of mass industrial automation and robotics. The microprocessor revolutionised manufacturing and companies that embraced and adopted this technology were the beneficiaries of sustainable manufacturing advantages. Similarly, in this industrial era, businesses and countries that embrace and adopt 4IR technologies (including RPA) look set to be the ones that benefit from global agility and cost efficiency.

Steven Meyer.

RPA is forecast to play an increasingly important role as organisations progress with their digital transformation plans. It offers companies an exciting new way to improve their operations while also improving employee job satisfaction. RPA solutions look likely to become a widely adopted strategy for enhancing value chains by freeing employees to focus their time and efforts on more high-value and meaningful work. The benefits accrue from being able to do more with less while reducing errors, increasing worker job satisfaction, and better ensuring that deadlines are met, which benefits accrue with only relatively small capital requirements and IT resources. While RPA cannot be applied to all types of work, it can save time spent on routine, manual tasks when correctly applied.

Interested readers will find more information about RPA in the online article hosted at https://www.instrumentation.co.za/10438r.

Steven Meyer

Editor: SA Instrumetation & Control



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