What is RPA?
RPA – Robotic Process Automation – is a set of tools which companies can use to relieve human workers of repetitive tasks. RPA emulates human interaction with a computer interface, such as a CRM system, spreadsheet or website, to automatically input data, collect and file information, and generally execute multi-step processes.
The implementation of RPA typically gives businesses 20 to 30 per cent cost savings by improving efficiency, reducing errors and increasing compliance. By taking away the most menial tasks from workers, RPA also contributes to greater employee engagement, as individuals have more time to dedicate to more fulfilling tasks.
Depending on the business, the advantages of RPA can be significant. It therefore comes as no surprise that companies across all sectors are making use of this technology.
But what are some of the industry specific use cases for RPA? Here we list 5 important industry applications.
Robotic process automation in retail
The retail industry involves lots of processes that are prime for automation with RPA. In ecommerce, for example, companies can use RPA to manage constantly changing order and shipping statuses – updating customers when their items have been processed all the way through to expected delivery. In addition, RPA can be used to great effect in retail measurement.
In a case study from research firm Everest Group, an international performance management company used RPA to automate product categorisation at the global and local scale – a process that had previously been carried out by hand and which consequently involved a high error rate. Using cognitive automation, the company was able to process retailer and vendor data sent to them in image and text form, and automatically structure and categorise this information. This led to a 98.5 per cent accuracy rate for product categorisation with a corresponding 80 per cent reduction of manual effort.
Robotic process automation in banking
In spite of recent digital innovations, the banking sector is still known for its lengthy processes around information input and exchange. This makes banking ideal territory for RPA implementation. In client facing banking, RPA can be used to confirm appointments with customers, pull up their information from CRM systems, and – using machine learning algorithms – suggest which financial products are most likely to be of interest to them. It can also be revolutionary in processes such as loan applications and approval, drastically cutting the time it takes for clients to receive a decision on their request.
RPA vendor Blue Prism recently worked with The Co-operative Bank, identifying and automating 10 processes including Direct Debit cancellations, CHAPS payments, account closures and audit reports. After an automation programme of 12 months, results included significant time efficiencies and a rapid return on investment, with individual projects paying for themselves in less than three months.
Robotic process automation in insurance
Lengthy, multi-step claims processes and document-heavy workflows make the insurance industry a prime use case for RPA. Whether it is issuing policies or renewals, underwriting, claims processing, or even just managing end of month reports, a host of information from different sources must be compiled and sorted for the majority of operations in this industry.
RPA vendor UiPath found the insurance sector to be one of the first widespread adopters of automation technology. The company's Enterprise RPA Platform was recently used to automate 70 per cent of one insurance organisation's tasks. Another insurer was able to reduce its onboarding costs by 91 per cent and increase processing times by 600 per cent. The combination of Intelligent optical character recognition (OCR) with RPA has been particularly transformational in the insurance industry, with software automatically pulling information from documents and directing it to appropriate work streams.
Robotic process automation in councils and local authorities
UK council authorities are charged with managing a wide variety of different tasks, including housing, education and healthcare needs. Keeping up with all of these diverse processes constitutes a significant challenge, especially where often convoluted administration processes are involved.
We partnered with Kingston and Sutton Councils in London, to provide RPA as part of the region's new digital strategy. In a multifaceted approach, we implemented solutions such as the automatic indexing of emails relating to housing benefit, automating discharge notifications for patients leaving hospital (including forwarding information on to onward care teams), and capturing police reports relating to safeguarding concerns on an internal database. These examples show how RPA can be used in a variety of different operations within a single organisation, directing information flows for efficiency, and – importantly in this case – making sure vulnerable individuals don't fall through the gaps in complicated administrative systems.
Robotic process automation in human resources
While not strictly an industry in its own right, HR is a permanent feature of all businesses. The more a business grows, the larger its HR department becomes, and the more processes there are for its employees to manage. Tasks such as recruitment, vetting workers, and processing employee absences or claims for expenses are time consuming, repetitive jobs which often still rely on physical documentation. Automating these tasks with RPA frees HR workers from these jobs whilst also improving accuracy and efficiency rates for the department.
In addition, RPA can be combined with machine learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to great effect in HR in the creation of purpose built chatbots. This allows employees to interact with a virtual assistant rather than a human worker when they need advice or to register claims or documents. It can dramatically improve the flow and accuracy of information to individual employees throughout the wider business, giving them better access to data and ensuring their claims are processed more quickly.
Research and Insights Manager
Sarah is renowned for her ability to communicate complex concepts with clarity. She plays a central role in managing the insights programme at Foundry4.