What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and what is its impact on businesses

Sushree Behera

A study conducted by Crowd Science explains Robotic Process Automation as a tool that can imitate human actions with software to automate monotonous work. In an interview where McKinsey interviewed Leslie Willcocks, robotic automation has considerably saved time. The work of taking premium notes, which usually took 2 days to write, is now finished in just 30 minutes. 

The robot can learn many procedures and steps of a workflow, such as filing the form, updating spreadsheets, etc. Recently, robotics has garnered confidence in many industries where its sophisticated technological tools have played a vital part in overcoming challenges and rendering the best service in a limited time.

Considering the time and effort humans go into working in manufacturing industries, Robotic Process Automation can be utilized for handling materials more efficiently than its human counterparts.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

The Robotic Process Automation as a mechanism in which software robotics can perform functions on tangible or virtual machinery. Although movies like The Matrix and The Terminator have given the impression of Robots coming to life and dominating the human race, the fact is that automation software does not ever involve any robots (at least physical ones that possess the power to become sentient). 

Unlike these Hollywood robots, the main function of robotic process automation is performing the most repetitive and sublunary machine-based tasks in the workplace and nothing more. Some of the examples are copy-pasting and transferring or moving files. 

Nintex’s product manager sums up the function of robotic process automation in an efficient way. He says RPA can be used by anyone smart enough to set up instructions for the “bot” to perform any given task. They outsmart humans in performing these menial and laborious tasks with stunning speed and volume. 

Organizations in many fields will witness the efficiency where robotic process automation replaces humans in doing monotonous and time-consuming tasks at greater speed.  

How does robotic process automation work?

Robotic Process Automation entails the application of automated systems to do tasks without involving humans in the process. The programs that build RPAs are complex and highly sophisticated. This is how robotic process automation usually works in any given environment:

  1. Perception and sensor: “Bots” use numerous sensors like lasers and other specialized devices to deal with their environment. The sensors, in turn, generate data about their surroundings, paving the way for robots in the decision-making process:
  2. Programming: Many programming languages are used during the creation of these robots. They are instrumental in helping them perform any given task;
  3. End effectors: In a manufacturing industry where the work is often physical labor, these tools come in handy for RPAs. They are attached to the robots, which help do certain tasks—for example, welding tools, grippers, etc;
  4. Feedback mechanisms: Based on their interaction with the environment, the robot can edit its actions based on the dynamic changes in the surroundings. 

Use cases of robotic process automation

Many skilled workers whose time can be used by having them perform showcased and challenging often spend a large part of the day doing manual and monotonous work. Imbibing robotic process automation here can play a crucial role in increasing their productivity and overall job satisfaction. 

  • In finance: According to Gartner, 73% of corporate controllers are expected to implement some type of RPA in their finance departments. The finance industry usually teems with unique data actions like collection, creation, processing, and receiving;
  • In human resources: Robotic Process automation is used in HR to streamline the process of employee onboarding. This involves automating the procedure of document verification, handling leave management through automatic approvals, etc;
  • In manufacturing: RPA can easily automate tasks such as order confirmation and order entry. It can also enhance the Management of inventory, like alerts for creating reorders, stock level tracking, etc;
  • In the e-commerce industry: Robotic Process Automation solidifies its importance in the workplace by performing this seemingly menial and laborious work. Their role can be instrumental for e-commerce websites as well. RPAs can efficiently send messages confirming the receipt, reconditioning the inventory system, making the payment acclimatization to the customer, etc.

Benefits of robotic process automation for businesses

Since technology has evolved, especially in robotic process automation, it has been used in numerous industries to save time and increase efficiency. However, its advantages extend beyond just enhancing productivity. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Saves cost: In any given workplace, the main purpose of RPA is to perform tasks that are repetitive and menial. Skilled workers can then confidently move on from performing these laborious jobs to doing complex and challenging work. This increasingly enhances the ROI and productivity;
  • Customer satisfaction: Bots can work around the clock, stopping for nothing. This can be instrumental in decreasing wait times for consumers, leading to a gigantic rate of consumer contentment;
  • Enhanced employee morale: By taking up the high volume, monotonous workload from skilled employees. RPAs pave the way for them to spend more of their time on strategic decision-making. This has the potential to increase their work happiness;
  • Greater accuracy: Programmers can minimize human error by programming RPAs to follow particular workflows and protocols. They can also generate an audit trail, which helps businesses solve problems efficiently;
  • Improved productivity: The process of automation saves time and money; the organization can assign people to work tasks that require intelligence. Productivity witnesses a positive rise in this case.

The challenges of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

  • Difficulty in scaling: As per a study conducted by Forrester, 53% of customers believe that they need help to expand their RPA program. This difficulty in scaling usually happens due to internal dynamics or updates in regulations;
  • Company’s culture: Another obstacle that challenges the robotics process automation is the company’s culture. When RPA performs repetitive and high-volume tasks, it paves the way for skilled workers to involve themselves in more challenging roles;
  • Complexity: Although creating RPAs requires less code these days, not everyone can realize their application. The difficulty in operating them due to extremely complex systems is one way obstructing their proper utilization. 

To beat the competition and maintain their attrition rate, companies will need to advocate an atmosphere for learning and innovation. 

Read more: The new inventions of 2023 that will reshape our future

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