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Improving Business Efficiency with Robotic Process Automation

Gerald Taylor MBA

What I hope to achieve in this article is to get you to consider one very important question, “Is your organization truly getting the most productive use of its employee’s time and talent?”  If I can get you to think in that direction or ponder this notion, then this article has achieved its objective.

This article features how you can improve business efficiency and scale for growth with a relatively new technology called Robotic Process Automation (RPA).  In it, I will describe what RPA is and provide an example so you can leave with a good understanding of how the tech works.  I will also demonstrate how RPA is combined with lean management to eliminate waste and re-engineer a more cost effective and productive future state. Finally, I will illustrate method you can use evaluate its potential in your organization.

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

Robotic Process Automation is an inexpensive software-based technology.  The programmed bots in RPA work on the desk top by interacting with your applications and technology platforms performing human tasks at a rate 10 – 15 times faster than a person. RPA performs such tasks as re-keying data, logging into applications, moving files and folders, copying and pasting and much more!  RPA bots are capable of performing most human-computer interactions to carry out an extra-ordinary number of error-free tasks. In fact, if you have employees serving as a quick fix to interoperability; meaning they are taking data from an old legacy system and inputting it in to a CRM like Sales Force or taking data from a main frame and inputting it into another application, RPA is perfect for these activities….and it does so with zero errors or zero defects!  Both public and private sector organizations find value in RPA as a solution for streamlining and automating repetitive, low added value work. It is also a very attractive alternative to lengthy system overhauls and transformations. But..whereas a picture is worth a thousand words, I believe a quick 2 minute media example can better explain what RPA is and its usefulness. 

Growth in Process Automation

According to our research group, TPMG Analytics, growth in interest of RPA has been extraordinary. Since 2017, interest in RPA has grown at a average weekly rate of 27%.  RPA is the first step into an emerging industry of artificial intelligence and machine learning and is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 36% over the next 3 years. 

Humans working side by side with robots is no longer something of science-fiction. Before we know it, RPA will be to routine administrative tasks what robots are now in high tech manufacturing. Automation algorithms can now be designed to ruthlessly satisfy larger and larger ranges of tasks and the unbiased decision making of machine learning represents a competitive advantage over human operators. Over the next 5 to 10 years productivity will be explosive, and people will be freed to work solely on higher priority, value generating tasks. According to a recent Oxford University Study, The Future of Employment, over this decade, 47 percent of total US employment will likely be automated or digitized.

Is RPA a Good Fit for Your Organization? 

The cost of sub-optimized workers imprisoned in low-value added tasks has been estimated at 30% percent of operating cost.  It is a hidden cost.  RPA is well suited for high volume processes with the potential for high human error rates and where human beings are subject to the law of diminishing marginal returns.  The fact that one minute of work from RPA translates into15 minutes of human activity means employees can be released from the “prison of the mundane” to work on higher priority tasks.

Tremendous success stories are common with the technology. RPA enhanced a banks ATM dispute resolution by reducing the turnaround time from 48 hours to 2 hours. An insurance company was able to reduce its document processing time from 16 minutes to three…while improving overall productivity of processing by 87.5%.  A leading healthcare system was able to reduce its resource cost by 50% while at the same time improving its quick verification response time by more than 70%. And a financial tech company was able to reduce its data inspection and verification time by more than 83% while being able to redeploy 57% of their complement to open job requisitions and higher priority tasks. The healthcare industry is showing incredible potential for automation. Let me re-iterate, these types of success stories are common with the technology. Which leads us to our final question.

How do I now if RPA is a good fit for my organization? This is where the practice of lean management and process engineering comes into the picture. Your first step is to identify the process you believe to be a candidate for automation.  Your next step is to conduct a waste walk; a direct observation of the work as it is done along with a series of individual interviews to construct a straw model of the process.  After creating the straw model, you want to conduct a red flag analysis to identify inherent weaknesses that create a drag on productivity.  You will find repeating quality and accuracy checks, manual tasks ripe for automation, duplication of effort, collection of non relevant data, and blatant mismatches between job need and employee skill. Afterwards, you want to capture and record legitimate opportunities to automate in time and motion studies via Zoom or WebEx.  It is a very simple activity where you can calculate minutes per task, cost per minute, cost per task and multiply the result by the volume of work to generate a cost benefit analysis  Reviewing the related financial models should provide you with a proof positive or negative picture of an automation impact.

Performing a Cost/Benefit Analysis

What is your Improvement Priority?

Is your organization truly getting the most productive use of its employee’s time and talent? In which one of these areas are you personally convinced there is room for improvement in your company: scaling for growth, productivity improvement, cost effectiveness, or velocity? If you are curious, TPMG OpEx can not only help you answer this question, but can also shepard you through a no risk/no cost discovery process. We can partner with you to identify a job function and set up a complimentary proof of concept RPA bot. As an outcome of the discovery process you can: 1. benefit from a free cost/benefit analysis, 2. experience the value of RPA in your operation, and 3. discover if RPA is a good fit for your organization.

Contact us today! TPMG OpEx – Operational Excellence

Gerald Taylor, MBA is the Managing Director of TPMG Consulting and a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt

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