How Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Can Benefit Manufacturing

robotic process automation

(3 minute read)

Robotic process automation (RPA) is designed to streamline enterprise operations and reduce costs. It allows organizations to automate mundane rules-based business processes so that business users can devote more time to serving customers or other higher value tasks.

Although there has been a lot of interest in RPA for several years, its use has only just begun to scratch the surface of its capabilities. However, adoption has begun to accelerate, with Forrester predicting that the RPA software market will grow to $2.9 billion in 2021.

RPA is an innovation that is critical to manufacturing companies, blurring the line between the digital and physical worlds. Although robotics have classically augmented business operations by automating specific tasks, they are now intelligently replacing and taking over tactical business operational activities that are prone to human error and inefficiency.

Although the manufacturing industry has been using physical robots for many years as part of the manufacturing process, it has only recently begun to look at robotic process automation for back-office processes.

There is an especially strong value proposition for manufacturing to take advantage of RPA. Manufacturers have been shown to be more susceptible than other industries to costly unplanned downtime due to human error. A study done by Vanson Bourne in 2017 found that 23% of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing was the result of human error, compared with rates as low as 9% in other sectors.

RPA enables manufacturers to improve productivity, meet customers’ expectations and consistently drive product innovation—all while lowering costs. Some areas where robotic process automation can be especially beneficial for manufacturers include:

  • Inventory reports
  • Order fulfillment
  • Purchase order processing
  • Transportation management
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Customer support and communication

The most immediate impact of RPA is the ability to perform routine tasks in an error-free, consistent manner. RPA also provides an audit trail of the work performed, which can be invaluable information when the output of a process produces an unexpected result. It can also be configured to identify anomalies or red flags that would be missed by employees.

Benefits of using RPA in manufacturing include:

  • Optimizing time-centric and routine processes
  • Increasing go-to-market speed by maximizing productivity
  • Reducing cost through minimized human error
  • Increasing agility in operations

The best approach to get started with robotic process automation is to focus first on highly repetitive tasks that are prone to the most error. As the organization gains more experience with RPA, it can look toward more sophisticated use of the technology.

If you’d like to learn more about RPA for manufacturing and other topics, download our white paper, How Industrial Manufacturing and Components Companies Can Compete in the Digital Age.

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