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What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

More and more industries currently depend on automation to carry out mundane tasks in their operations. Rather than restricting human potential to tedious roles, companies can utilise their existing labour to focus on more important responsibilities. Hence, organisations have turned to digital robots to take control of human actions. In this regard, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) becomes relevant. In simple terms, RPA refers to a digital software solution that controls all robotic fleets interacting with a digital solution or software. From building, managing and deploying robots, the RPA ensures robots interacting with digital systems and software carry out their operations accurately with the help of Machine Language (ML). Companies implementing RPA is a reliable solution which automates various repetitive processors around the clock, 24/7. This article describes what RPA is and how it is used in the manufacturing industry.

The Robot in RPA Is Not An Actual Robot

Contrary to one might think, an RPA does not control physical robotics. It refers to the range of software robots in a physical or virtual machine. In essence, this software is a type of automation where a company can specify various instructions for the robots to perform. Such instructions can be described easily, including by recording a specific task and uploading it into the system. This process is called generating an “automation script”. This indicates that RPA is a simple platform that an organisation with no technical expertise can adopt. For instance, a company does not need to insert and design coding to communicate to the software which actions should be automated. Once described, it is the software that simply automates such processes and does not, in other words, sends such instructions to a fleet of actual robots to carry them out. The software can mimic human-computer interactions to execute multiple high-volume operations and ensure they are error-free and processed faster. This includes carrying out tasks such as copying and pasting, making calculating, moving files and removing duplication, connecting to APIs and extracting unstructured data. 

Is RPA A Form Of Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

As noted by the Harvard Business Review Analytics report,  there has been contention in determining whether RPA is a form of AI. Despite the confusion, RPA is a straightforward technology that is not AI. This is because any form of AI-powered software solution can self-learn and adapt. RPA, in contrast, does not learn as it goes. It is purely restricted to carrying out its central tasks. Hence, even if a change in the repetitive task occurs, the RPA will not understand or know that anything has changed to notify the manager. Taken in this way, it is clear that RPA carries out human actions that are rule-based. However, there may be confusion in this area due to the complementary nature of RPA and AI. Since AI is meant to mimic human judgement and behaviour, it can easily be integrated with RPA. The report notes that aspect as deep neural networks, a form of AI technology, has now been integrated into RPA, which “allows documents and images to be ‘viewed’ holistically by an algorithm, and interpreted for downstream logic and routing”. A significant advantage of infusing both RPA and AI is that, unlike before, RPA simply took control of tedious, repetitive tasks, while AI can automate complex processes. Moreover, this form of advanced RPA will be able to hold predictive and prescriptive insights, providing decision-makers valuable knowledge. The merging of these two technologies has resulted in the term “intelligent automation”, which allows RPA to automate diverse tasks in a corporation. As a result, any form of weaknesses identified in a traditional RPA, such as issues on scalability, can be eliminated. 

RPA Use Cases in the Manufacturing Industry

RPA is a tool used by companies in different fields. From finance to healthcare and others, any business that finds itself wasting time on repetitive tasks is a potential consumer of RPA. In the manufacturing industry, repetitive mundane tasks are common. Thus, incorporating an RPA is an obvious solution. Here are three RPA user cases in the manufacturing industry. 

Stock Optimisation

RPA helps manufacturers to manage their inventory by monitoring and tracking each material. Hence, every time a material is used for production, the RPA automatically updates the list of materials left in the inventory. It further automates ordering more materials and tracking their progress to be delivered to the factory. RPA can also attend to any inquiries and emails that require generic answers. Hence, where a quotation is requested, RPA can schedule one and send it to the consumer speedily. This ensures consumer queries are answered seamlessly. RPA moreover can generate monthly or annual reports and automatically send them to the relevant employee personnel. 

Bill of Materials (BOM)

BOM refers to one of the most important documents in the manufacturing industry. It is this document that acts as the recipe for the manufacturing product in question. Thus, it includes the list of raw materials, sub-components, quantities of each component, sub-assemblies and intermediate assemblies. An RPA helps in this instance as it can be programmed to extract product data and replicate what is needed to generate a BOM. 

Supply Chain Management

RPA significantly helps in optimising the supply chain and generating invoices. For instance, invoices are automated by RPA bots by extracting data in invoices using OCR and structuring the data appropriately. It ensures that the items requested in the purchase orders are what is billed for and delivered, as it compares the invoices to confirm the orders. It moreover takes care to remove any duplicates that the system may have created and automatically updates all records of invoices in a company’s ERP system.  An RPA optimises the supply chain by making it easy for the manufacturing company and the consumer to check the delivery status. Traditionally, manufacturers had to manually insert the tracking number to inform the consumer of its status. With an RPA system, however, an automated email or notification is sent to both parties whenever the location of the package is shifted. 

Cerexio: A Solutions Provider That Integrates Industry 4.0 Technology

Cerexio is one of the few technology vendors specifically providing digital solutions to the manufacturing industry. It incorporates the latest industry 4.0 technologies, including AI, ML, digital twins, predictive and prescriptive analytics, AR and VR, the Industrial Internet of Things and more. As Cerexio includes AI-powered technology, it resembles an intelligent automation system that helps manufacturing companies utilise their employees, time and resources more efficiently. Thus, streamline your inventory and supply chain, manage your data, further optimise your ERP, and automatically receive detailed and insightful reports with a much more powerful RPA solution. 

Connect with us to learn the interrelations between RPA and industry 4.0 technologies. 

Automation or Intelligent Automation?

With the rise in digital technologies, companies in the manufacturing sector should specifically not depend on the basic automation that an RPA system alone offers. Note that RPA’s are traditionally best suitable for basic repetitive tasks. Hence, as manufacturing companies are now transitioning to smart factories, the integration of industry 4.0 technology has been pivotal. Due to this investing in a well-rounded solution automatically means that a much more robust automation solution that is smart is implemented. Automate complex processes and enjoy the benefits only offered with an intelligent automation system with an integrated solution of RPA and AI. 

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