The Factory Metaphor
5 Steps to Ensure a Return on Investment From Your RPA
Each year, more and more organizations across the world are looking to automate their processes. A 2020 study done by McKinsey & Co. shows that 66% of businesses have taken steps toward automation. RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is leading this trend.
With top RPA providers like UiPath, which recently became the 3rd largest tech IPO in U.S. history, automation has become mainstream, and experts believe there will be an even larger uptick in the utilization of automation tools like RPA.
To fully understand RPA, and to use it to your company’s full advantage, you need to not only understand what RPA is, but how it fits into the larger automation ecosystem and how it fits into your business infrastructure, too. For those of you who are new to intelligent automation, some terms of reference are included at the end of this document.
So, how do we simplify RPA so we can start using the technology effectively? We can start by comparing it to something we can all relate to—a factory.
Imagine you are a manufacturer who is looking to speed up the assembly of one of your products. You do the research and finally decide to invest in a new piece of equipment that will improve productivity significantly.
After implementing the new equipment, you are disappointed to find that the overall effect it has on your productivity is much less impressive than you expected. The efficiency and/or output of the product line that’s been automated may have improved, but the production rate of the entire operation has remained static. It feels as though your investment has fallen short.
You may have the same reaction when you first begin exploring RPA. But the issue is not with the technology; it’s how you use it, scale it, and manage it.
When you are choosing a new piece of equipment to improve the production of your factory, you don’t (or shouldn’t) start your search with the equipment, but with the process you are trying to improve.
For example, you may notice that there are two processes slowing your factory down: (1) The assembly of a complicated part that is ordered once a month and (2) the daily packaging of the products you ship. Both processes are time-consuming, but one is the obvious candidate for a new machine—the process that affects a wider range of your products, more frequently. And so, your search for a boxing machine begins.
Process 1 is time-consuming, but specific and performed less frequently. Even though it is tedious when performed, investing in automating it will have less of an overall impact on the operation as a whole.
Choosing the right process is not always black and white. The best approach is to look at the impact it will have on your organization’s overall workflow. That means carefully considering the bigger picture prior to committing to a specific piece of equipment, no matter how promising it seems.
That new boxing machine you purchased may have the potential to streamline your production line, but only if your staff knows how to use it. Without knowledge of how the machine works, it can’t be used to its full potential, and may end up sitting in the corner of your factory gathering dust.
Just like a boxing machine, RPA is not impossible to understand, but it does require some training. However, with the proper training, the equipment can be empowering, giving you more time to focus on the processes that matter. Having an understanding of the technology is the first step in making the most of RPA.
All machinery requires maintenance. Even the newest, most innovative boxing machine will eventually need a tune-up, replacement part, or cleaning in order to keep functioning properly. Sometimes, this maintenance can be done by internal staff members. Other times, you may need to hire out. Either way, being prepared for necessary maintenance after implementing the machine is going to be essential to keeping the factory running smoothly.
Your IT department has to be prepared, too, in case your RPA software needs troubleshooting, updating, or maintenance. After you implement the software, your business process will adapt to that software, and become reliant on it. Being equipped to get it up and running again in case of emergency will give you and your team peace of mind.
Once you’ve decided on and implemented the best equipment for your factory, it’s time to see where else automation can bring efficiency. A good place to start is looking at similar processes on other production lines. Soon, you will see the productivity of your factory skyrocket, and your return on investment will multiply. The best outcomes occur when scalability is considered from the outset.
It’s important to remember that scalability is not just about growth, but optimization. The results of the boxing machines may be great, increasing your production speed substantially. However, without a plan, operational issues can occur. For example, the increased production creates more inventory than you can handle. As a result, you sell your products for a reduced price, and the investment is no longer profitable.
Your RPA must align with your business’s infrastructure. You want to make sure you do not outgrow your resources. Automation isn’t a “set it and forget it” solution. It only works when it is constantly measured and continuously improved.
In Novatio’s recent article on governance, we define it as a way to “establish roles and responsibilities, decision points, alignment processes, communication, and performance metrics” in order to successfully manage your RPA software.
Just as you hire employees whose goals align with those of your organization, you must also ensure that the RPA software you choose aligns with those goals, too. Furthermore, you must make sure that the software continues to align with your goals after implementation. That’s where governance comes in. Unlike your employees, RPA governance is different from traditional governance—it has to be much more adaptive and flexible. This requires something in addition to IT support or employee training; it requires an RPA leadership team. To learn more about what that takes, click here.
Implementing an RPA software successfully is an ongoing process but following these 5 steps will get you there quickly and effectively. Studies have shown that businesses who properly implement RPA can see up to a 4X return on their investment. Don’t let your RPA fall short.
Be on the lookout for future blogs that will dive deeper into each of these steps to help you find success on your RPA journey. In the meantime, contact Novatio for assistance getting started with RPA, finding the right processes, or improving any of the areas we talked about.