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RPA in Manufacturing: Is It The Future?
For Factories Around the World, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Is Already Here, and It’s Making a Big Impact on Productivity
Today, robotic manufacturing machines are a regular sight at even the smallest of factories. But the next big thing in manufacturing isn’t necessarily more shop floor robots. Companies are investing in smarter bots—automated processes that take the repetitive, time-consuming process out of factory administration. RPA in manufacturing uses intelligent software systems to track and make decisions about data. Factories everywhere are putting that data to good use, using RPA to reduce errors, improve tracking, and increase productivity in every kind of administrative task from logistics, to accounting, to customer service.
Even in a manufacturing environment where supply chain woes are holding back growth, manufacturers are still seeing enough upside in RPA to invest big in the technology. In fact, Gartner forecasts that global RPA revenues will reach $1.89 billion in 2021—an increase of 19.5 percent from 2020. And they’re predicting RPA in manufacturing will continue to grow in double digits through 2024. Forrester concurs with that analysis. It estimates that in 2021, one in four information workers will receive some kind of help from software bots or robotic process automation.
So what could RPA do for your factory? Here are some of the ways manufacturers are harnessing this new technology.
RPA in Manufacturing: The Use Cases
As bots become more intelligent, they are more able to make decisions, especially when it comes to simple tasks. Factories with fewer repetitive admin functions have staff that are freed up for more complex thinking, strategy, creation, and high-impact customer service. Bots can do more than just eliminate human error. They can help improve your productivity and help your staff work at a higher level. What is RPA doing in the modern factory? Here are some of the most common use cases.
1. Creating Bills of Materials
Administrative staff often struggle to keep track of parts, sync orders, and keep replacement parts on hand. Bots do this difficult job proactively. It takes the guesswork out of your purchasing and has the potential to greatly speed up your operations.
2. Administrative Reporting and Analytics
RPA in manufacturing can offer a whole new level of customized reporting. Bots can create dashboards of constantly updating information that can help you think strategically about your operations, at all times. It can show you when you need to invest, when you need to ramp employee hours up or down, and answer any other questions you need to be answered to stay ahead of the game. You’ll be able to respond to market conditions, before they impact your bottom line.
3. Customer Service Routing
When most people think of a customer service bot, they think of the little customer service boxes that come up on a website, asking if you have any questions. But RPA bots can be far more sophisticated than this. Bots can alert customer service when a customer contract is about to expire, generate a new renewal contract, and suggest what actions the rep should take. Bots can also identify customers who may be ready for an upgrade, or who might specifically benefit from a new product or promotion. They can also assure that the right calls get through to the right representative, paving the way for a better customer experience.
4. Transport Logistics
Routing everything your factory needs to receive and ship is a major operation. But RPA in manufacturing can help make this process turnkey. Using sensors and trackers, robots can marry your production schedules with your inventory to ensure that everything is ready, when it’s needed. Then, it can create shipping schedules and routes, create shipping manifests for each route, and track the inventory as it travels to the customer. Complex routing decisions can be made with ease, improving delivery times, reducing shipping errors, and improving customer satisfaction.
5. Inventory Management
Where are the parts that are needed for a job? Where are the pieces that a customer needs shipped? If a machine needs repairing, where are the replacement parts located? RPA in manufacturing can enable this visibility in real-time. And a good bot could even suggest what inventory should be pulled and used.
Are You Ready to Put RPA in Manufacturing to Work for You?
What we’ve described here is really only the beginning of what RPA in manufacturing can do. There are off-the-shelf program solutions, but more often, clients are getting custom-made platforms that can work directly with their systems. As an MSP serving small and medium-sized manufacturers, we’re excited about what the future could hold for RPA, and we hope you are, too.
There’s a lot of excitement around RFP, and how it will create a bold, new future for smart factories. We’ve been thinking and writing a lot about the subject in our Iconic IT blog. If you’d like to read up, check out our recent stories on adaptive manufacturing technology and the modern factory, the bold new future of AR manufacturing, and what manufacturing technology will look like in the future.
If you run a small to medium-sized manufacturing company in one of our service areas we’d love to talk to you about the IT managed services we offer to the manufacturing sector. Contact us today. We’d love to meet with you!