Manufacturing Digitalization: RPA a Key Enabler of Industry 4.0

What is Robotic Process Automation

According to a study conducted by Information Services Group back, 72% of the companies by the year 2019 will be relying on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to increase operational efficiency, productivity and increase compliance. Manufacturing companies that traditionally heavily rely on robotics and automation for production are now looking into RPA to transform other departments that may have a number of error-prone, slow or costly processes.

The changing landscape within industries such as manufacturing is due to the vast digital transformation brought about by the increasing integration of cutting-edge technologies such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence and machine learning as well as advanced automation.

Within manufacturing in particular, the use of automated robotic machines on assembly lines has been common practices for many years now, however transferring this kind of automation to other key areas within manufacturing such as accounts receivable, invoice processing and purchase order management has been somewhat difficult up until fairly recently.

In this article, we’ll be looking at what robotic process automation is, the role it has within manufacturing and the benefits it brings as well as how it could affect the future of automation within the manufacturing industry.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

With various different forms of automation slowly making its way into manufacturing, it is easy to see how the framework for robotic process automation came about. Robotic process automation (RPA) is a method of automation that utilizes software robots to interpret and automate certain back-office and operational tasks as well as processes such as procurement, customer communications, and inventory management.

The replication of how tasks are performed within a process-related application or graphical user interface (GUI) are key to robotic process automation. With this capability, there are a number of potential use cases for robotic process automation within manufacturing. RPA for administrative tasks and reporting would also unburden human employees of mundane and repetitive work involved in such duties.

RPA can also be scaled up or down depending on the requirement and there are several ways in which it could be integrated within a manufacturing environment depending on what one hoped to achieve through utilizing it. As we’ll now see, there are several benefits that robotic process automation can bring to manufacturing.

Key Drivers of RPA Adoption

One of the most attractive benefits any technological advancement can bring to almost every industry is extending the original capabilities of the entity adopting and integrating it into their systems.

With robotic process automation, manufacturers are discovering that what previously needed three employees working all day to achieve could be done by a single RPA system.

As well as cutting down on the time it takes to perform certain tasks and duties, robotic process automation can also reduce the long-term costs associated with various different aspects of manufacturing including bookkeeping, maintenance and upkeep, manual labor, insurance, and reporting and administrative tasks and operations.

The implementation of robotic process automation is often used for reducing the complexity of various different back office or managerial processes and therefore increasing a manufacturer’s overall agility. By streamlining specific, user-configured operations, robotic process automation can also enable manufacturers to stay compliant with new and incoming regulations.

Customization is another big pulling factor when researching a potential investment into robotic process automation.  RPA systems are able to be deployed for both manufacturing utilities as well as other rule-based routines or operations, making them highly customizable in order to suit customer’s needs.

Another key benefit to the use of robotic process automation systems is their superiority to humans. Manufacturers would be able to run these systems 24 hours a day seven days a week due to their not needing a break, food, sleep or rest. RPA systems would also be less prone to error and less likely to allow their judgement to be clouded by external stimuli or distractions.

The Future of Automation in Manufacturing?

As we continue on through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the use of digital, virtual, artificial intelligence, and automation will no doubt become increasingly common within a manufacturing environment. Robotic process automation, while still currently in relative infancy, will no doubt go on to be an integral element in the manufacturing process.

The transformation of traditional manual process into new, much more efficient digital systems is enabling manufacturers to not only improve the quality of their products and services but also helping to eliminate many of the errors and speed up the pace of various different processes and operations.

The benefits of these systems are currently being experienced by manufacturers and other industrial and commercial enterprises around the world and the continued development of such systems will likely result in an increase in both levels of quality and productivity within the organisations that adopt them.

With more and more aspects of manufacturing becoming automated, the question still remains as to how far technologies such as robotic process automation will go? Many different companies within a variety of industries are increasingly turning to automation as a way to enhance their internal processes and operations and also as a way of modernizing their companies to adapt to the next digital disruption that awaits us.

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