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5 Real-World RPA Examples That Save Time and Money
Robots were once firmly in the realm of science fiction, but today, they're an everyday reality. We see automation almost everywhere we look, from the entertainment we consume, to the cars we drive, to the workplaces we contribute to. And one example of software automation we see everywhere is robotic process automation (RPA). RPA has skyrocketed in popularity across industries in recent years, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.
But what exactly is RPA?
RPA is automation software that mimics the way humans interact with computers to perform high-volume, repeatable, and often tedious tasks. Or in other words, it transfers digital tasks from humans to a "bot". As a result, RPA tools save time and money and boost productivity and efficiency by empowering workers to focus on mission-critical work. Humans excel at complex and creative tasks that require higher-order thinking, so why would we waste our time with repetitive and error-sensitive manual tasks? Well, with RPA, we don't have to.
To demonstrate just how widespread RPA’s usefulness is (and why so many companies are investing in it), we’ve compiled a list of real-life examples of RPA helping companies reduce cost, save time, stay competitive, and do better work. Let's dive in.
Finance & Accounting (Invoice Processing)
Accounting and financial management are vital business operations—yet the tasks involved are tedious, error-prone, and don't directly generate revenue. As a result, these tasks are prime candidates for RPA disruption.
For example, invoice processing is one of the most time-consuming tasks within Accounts Payable. Invoices filter in through various channels. Then, workers need to match these invoices to supporting documents like the purchase order (PO) or delivery receipt. Next, there's the authorization and approvals process, which can often involve many people. Then invoices need to be processed for payment and, finally, archived for safekeeping. This arduous process is why it takes the average mid-sized company about 25 days to process a single invoice manually.
With RPA, you can create rules that automatically send invoices to the right person for approval while your associates focus on the outliers. You can also automate the PO-matching process to mark any errors for further review before submitting the payment.
And that's just one example. Consider all the other data entry and manual processing that RPA bots can handle in accounting and finance. It's for this reason that F&A is a very typical starting point for organizations getting started on their automation journey.
Human Resources (Hiring & Onboarding)
Recruiting new workers isn't cheap and can take several weeks. In fact, according to the Society For Human Resources Foundation, the average cost of hiring just one person is now a whopping $4700.
Fortunately, the hiring and onboarding process is rife with repetitive and rules-based tasks that RPA bots can help with. For example, an RPA bot can source applicants around the clock with pinpoint accuracy and no bias. After sourcing applicants, this bot could also screen resumes for critical skills and workplace experience.
And it doesn't stop there. Companies can leverage RPA tools to handle the bulk of the admin tasks associated with employee onboarding, like sharing introductory documents and setting up new user accounts in business applications.
Retail (Inventory Management)
Retail has plenty of labor-intensive activities that are perfect candidates for automation. And this is especially true as companies adapt to e-commerce trends.
One area where retail companies can see huge gains with RPA solutions is Inventory Management. Retailers often have to keep track of various products across multiple regions, which can quickly become complicated and overwhelming. Not only do they need to ensure they have enough stock to meet demand, deal with dead stock, and find misplaced inventory items, but they also need to gain valuable insights into their operation and evolving market trends. Much of these activities can become automated processes.
RPA supports retail inventory management through a variety of automations:
- Automating notifications of low inventory (or even automated ordering)
- Optimizing inventory levels to maximize working capital without failing to meet demand
- Reducing inventory errors—inventory records are inaccurate over 60% of the time
- Assessing sales numbers nationally and internationally
Every month, HR teams everywhere have to contend with repetitive and time-consuming payroll processing.
Due to the sheer volume of work involved, errors and inaccuracies that result in payment delays are not uncommon. Unsurprisingly, workers aren't fond of waiting for their hard-earned pay!
An RPA bot can verify employee data across multiple systems and validate timesheets, earnings, and tax deductions. RPA can also administer taxable benefits and other reimbursements. Just within the payroll function, RPA can help with Payroll functions like:
- Changes in Payroll Records
- Attendance Management
- Time Entry Validations
- Resignation Handling
- Payroll Deductions
Customer expectations are higher than ever before. A recent study found that customer experience is now the top priority for businesses in the next five years, beating out pricing and product. Today, customers expect fast responses and their tickets to be in the right hands right away.
Luckily, many customer problems and queries can be solved in a routine, standardized manner - making customer support ripe for RPA.
RPA can categorize queries and send them to the correct department, such as technical support, billing, sales, etc. They can also boost efficiency by helping gather information and automatically updating customer data and requests.
Chatbots are another great example, even if they're at the intersection of RPA and AI. In fact, research by Nuance found that 67% of consumers prefer self-service (chatbots, website) to speaking to a customer representative.
For example, say a customer lands on a company's support page. The chatbot could pop up, ask the customer what they need help with, then automatically provide self-help resources the customer can use. In many cases, this could be enough to solve the customer's problem. The bot helps the customer solve their issue faster while saving the company money on customer service.
Additionally, it cuts wait times for customers who do need human agents, as fewer people are waiting on hold.
Here's the bottom line. With RPA, you can drive faster responses and increase customer satisfaction.
Robotic process automation boosts productivity and cuts time and costs by alleviating the workload on tedious back-office tasks. By making RPA bots do the routine work, like processing invoices, customer service requests, and more, workers have more time to focus on the tasks that really make a difference. It isn't easy to innovate when you have a mountain of paperwork in front of you!