Work Site Bots Blog

RPA is "The Word". What's the hub-bub all about?

Posted on October 17, 2019

RPA has come to a business near you

Lots of people think that the robots are coming for them. It isn't really true, but the myth persists. In this video from Saturday Night Live, a fictional company called Old Glory Insurance is selling "Robot Insurance" against the tin men coming to eat senior citizens' medication:

Robots have certainly had a big impact in certain blue-collar industries where repetitive actions occur such as welding parts together on a car frame, or turning screws on an assembly. But now with the rise of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), lots of mundane, repetitive tasks can be automated to allow white-collar employees to focus on more productive and profitable activities. We aren't talking about robots coming in every morning and sitting at a desk, answering the phone and creating TPA report cover sheets. No, RPA is software bots that are programed or taught to do the time consuming, highly repetitive tasks that you might have to do several times a day, freeing your time up so that you can concentrate on business activities that are much more profitable. 

Explain to me what RPA is, please!

From our website: "Robotic process automation (RPA) is the use of software to handle repetitive, high volume tasks employees have traditionally performed. These tasks can include a wide variety of activities in an even wider variety of industries. Some examples would be placing orders with suppliers, gathering data from several sources, entering data into existing legacy systems, running database queries, record maintenance, generating reports, system monitoring, and nearly any other activity humans could only do. Until now." That is a pretty good definition. Imagine having a 'robot' that works with the existing systems and interfaces you already have, doing automatically what you already do with a keyboard and mouse, bridging the gap between manual processes and automation? How powerful is that? That is worth something to every business there is. What is more impressive are the practical examples of RPA in the field. For example, imagine that you have a business that takes orders via your e-commerce site. Your website collects the orders, and some orders are filled from your local inventory while others are fulfilled from a manufacturer or a company that can drop-ship the items for you. If the items being ordered are drop-shipped, you have to go to that wholesale website, login, and manually place the order. What if you could identify the items in your parts database that can be dropped shipped, and set up an RPA bot to place that order for you automatically? Imagine the time savings! And imagine how error free it would be! That is what RPA is all about. 

"Imagine having a 'robot' that works with the existing systems and interfaces you already have, doing automatically what you already do with a keyboard and a mouse, bridging the gap between manual processes and automation? How powerful is that? That is worth something to every business there is."

Sounds promising. But I bet it costs a lot of money to get it up and running!

People scoff at adopting newer technology for several reasons:

  • I don't understand it so it can't possibly apply to my business.
  • Only big businesses can use this.
  • I bet it costs more than my net profit for two years to implement!
  • Sounds scary!
  • Any other reason you can think can be inserted here. 

RPA has been around for several years. In all honesty it is just software - with some machine learning or Artificial Intelligence built in - that can be programed to do what your employees, or you, do. It can use the same browsers, the same windowed applications, the same nearly everything that you use to do the mundane tasks that cost money to perform. The ROI equation that we have used for years is Gain-Cost / Cost. To figure out the benefit, first look for tasks that your workforce performs that are very repetitive and not very profitable. That would be the the best place to start,  and what we call "low hanging fruit". Estimate the cost (in time) associated with one employee performing that one process, day in and day out, and then multiple it by the number of employees who also do it. If you can then convert that to hours and assign an hourly rate to it, you will have the COST value of that task. Now figure out the GAIN. The initial GAIN will be removing that task from all of the employees who perform it and offloading it to a bot that can do it for them. To start with, imagine it takes the same amount of time for the bot to do it, but the software can run several instances of the task at once. That is like directly simulating what the employees were doing all day long. The labor expense of that one task suddenly drops to zero, since it is now being performed by a software bot. The GAIN initially becomes the reduction in labor cost, and if the bot can do it faster with little error, then the reduction in time to get it done is another positive component making up the GAIN value. Now simply take GAIN - COST and divide by COST to get your initial ROI. It isn't difficult to see that offloading tasks that don't require special skills to software bots can save labor expense and allow your company to focus it's workforce on more profitable activities. 

Sign me up! I want to digitally transform my business and slash labor costs!

Whoa, Partner! You can't transform your business into a 100% digital workforce. That is really impossible at this time. So many things we do require the computational skills and pattern recognition that our God designed brains provide for us, which are cool things that computers can't do very well yet. Plus, no one wants to talk to robots over the phone, though Siri and Alexa have mainstreamed that to an extent. Instead, use RPA to incrementally reduce costs and at the same time transform your business. We use RPA to upload posts to Facebook for our website clients, run revenue reports, check on our servers, and other important functions. We are always looking for new ways to employ RPA in a continuous digitally transformative way. You can, too! We can help - just contact us and we will talk about the possibilities. 

Todd Giardina and mini B-9 robot
About:  President/CEO/Chief Technology Evangelist of Todd's IT. Available for conventions, consulting, and conferring. Robots, programming, and IoT devices keep him busy. Likes to help businesses look and act larger than they really are through technological innovation. Also likes fast cars. Just saying!