Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the new buzzword in town, garnering a lot of attention from businesses and for a myriad of reasons. Just like e-commerce and OTT have changed the way humans shop or consume entertainment, RPA is here to change the way the world gets its work done.
This new technology has revolutionized how businesses operate by automating repetitive and mundane tasks. It helps companies to reduce manual intervention by increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and enhancing productivity in the workspace.
RPA is a software bot that mimics human actions to perform low-value tasks like logging into applications and systems, data entry, file and folder management, and report generation. The software lifts the burden of performing high-volume tasks from humans, allowing them to focus on core business operations. According to research, the RPA market is proliferating and is estimated to reach $7.2 billion by 2026.
This article will explore what RPA is, its benefits, how it works, and its potential limitations.
Understanding Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
What is RPA?
It is a software tool that automates repetitive, rule-based work using robots to reduce human intervention. These bots mimic human actions by interacting with applications and systems to complete tedious tasks such as data entry, file manipulation, report generation, etc.
The bot operating on this technology replaces all the tasks humans perform manually. It follows the same process defined by humans, except no humans are doing it.
How does RPA work?
RPA bots work by interacting with existing software applications, websites, and systems in the same way humans do. These bots can be programmed to perform simple and complex tasks by following rules and instructions set by their human counterparts. The bots can perform tasks across multiple applications and systems by accessing and maneuvering data in various formats, including structured and unstructured data.
Benefits of RPA
It holds numerous benefits that make it a compelling solution for businesses. Some of the key benefits include:
- Improved Efficiency: Unlike humans, these bots can work consistently around the clock without taking a coffee break, sick leave, or vacation. It can alone handle the tasks of 2-5 employees and deliver them with improved efficiency and productivity. These bots can complete tasks much faster than humans, which saves time and minimize errors.
- Cost Savings: By automating monotonous tasks, businesses can save costs associated with hiring and training additional workforce. This does not mean they can exceed human competence. How implementing it will empower the employees to complete the same amount of tasks in less time.
- Enhanced Accuracy:Humans are bound to make mistakes, but what if it’s at the cost of your business? RPA bots ensure the accuracy of all business operations by eliminating any processing errors. Unlike humans, bots perform these tasks more consistently, reliably, and effectively.
- Increased Capacity: Businesses can improve their team’s capacity by 35-50% without investing in additional resources by automating repetitive tasks. Bifurcating the low-value tasks between humans and robots leads to improved scalability and flexibility in operations.
Industry Application of RPA
RPA can be applied in various industries and sectors, including:
- Finance: BFSI with RPA is a match made to build sustainable success in the future. With an inflow of mass data day in and day out, it enables financial wizards to automatize tasks like document extraction, indexing, and other macro operational processes in seconds.
- Healthcare: The technology allows the healthcare industry to automate patient registration, appointment scheduling, and claims processing tasks. It consolidates and streamlines the process of paying medical bills, tests, medicines, and in-patient expenses freeing humans to focus on patient care.
- Human Resources: It lets HR managers minimize all manual efforts by taking on all the high-volume repetitive tasks. It helps automate tasks like employee onboarding, payroll processing, and compliance reporting, further boosting the team’s efficiency.
- Retail: Retailers can leverage these bots to automate managing inventory, order processing, monitor sales, invoice processing, and customer service, saving thousands of human hours. It also helps predict market trends before or during the launch of new products.
Steps to Implement RPA
Implementing RPA requires careful planning and execution to integrate existing systems and processes successfully. Below are the steps to follow for a successful implementation:
- Identify and prioritize tasks: Determine the repetitive and rule-based tasks suitable for automation.
- Select the right RPA tool: Choose an RPA tool that suits the organization’s needs and processes.
- Build and test bots: Develop and run tests to ensure the bots perform tasks accurately and efficiently.
- Train employees: Train employees on how to work alongside RPA bots to ensure seamless integration and collaboration.
- Monitor and maintain: Monitor the bots’ performance and maintain them regularly for optimal functioning.
Limitations of RPA
Despite its numerous benefits, this technology also has some limitations that businesses should be aware of. These include:
- Limited decision-making capabilities: RPA bots follow the rules and instructions set by humans and cannot make decisions beyond those rules. For them, the instructions defined by your organization are the guiding light period.
- Inability to handle unstructured data: They are designed to handle structured data and may be unable to handle unstructured data such as emails and images. Some specific advanced bots can perform cognitive tasks like understanding unstructured data when paired with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms.
- Need for frequent updates: You need to constantly update the bots to keep up with changes in systems and applications. These changes must be updated regularly, which may require time, energy, and human effort.
Future of RPA
The future of RPA looks bright, with the market projected to grow rapidly in the coming years. Integrating the technology with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will lead to more advanced automation solutions for complex tasks and decision-making.
RPA and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
While there are some tittle-tattles about the efficacy of using RPA with AI, both technologies are often mentioned together. While the former deals with automating rule-based, repetitive tasks, AI deals with automating decision-making and cognitive processes. Marrying it with AI gives birth to intelligent automation, which harnesses the power of AI to derive cognitive upgrades transforming into an incessant hyper-automation engine.
To conclude, RPA is an effective tool for any business that wants to skip the routine process and get to work towards the core organizational goals. A survey by Deloitte states that RPA continues to meet and exceed expectations, with 74% of respondents already implementing it.
However, businesses should also be aware of the limitations of this technology and the need to do thorough planning and execution when implementing it. Before taking the leap to incorporate RPA in business, you must identify the process that requires automation. Overall, it is an ideal solution for short-term problems, but in many cases, it’s incapable of driving strategically-efficient long-term automation.
- Is RPA only suitable for large businesses?
No, RPA can be implemented in businesses of all sizes.
- Can RPA bots make decisions beyond the rules set by humans?
No, RPA bots are designed to follow the rules and instructions set by humans.
- Can RPA bots handle unstructured data?
The bots are designed to handle structured data and may not be able to handle unstructured data such as emails and images unless paired with AI capabilities.
- What industries can benefit from RPA?
Various industries, including finance, healthcare, human resources, retail, edtech, and more can benefit using this technology.
- Is RPA a replacement for human workers?
No, it is meant to complement human workers and automate repetitive tasks, freeing them up to focus on more complex tasks.
- How long does it take to implement RPA?
It typically takes a few weeks to a few months, depending upon the complexity of the processes that require automation and the organization’s size.
- What are some standard RPA tools?
Some popular tools include UiPath, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, and WorkFusion.
- Is RPA expensive?
The implementation costs depend on factors such as the organization’s size, the complexity of the processes that need automation, and the RPA tools used.
- Can RPA be used for non-repetitive tasks?
It is designed for automating rule-based, repetitive tasks. But it can also be used for non-repetitive tasks with a defined workflow.
- Is RPA challenging to learn?
RPA is designed to be user-friendly and easy to learn, even for those with no coding experience. Many RPA tools also provide extensive training and support for users.