Robotic Process Automation: Something for Everyone


Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software may sound expensive and complicated, reserved for only the largest, most sophisticated IT organizations. However, nothing could be further from the truth. RPA has the potential to transform virtually any department in virtually any size organization.

Companies that use RPA scan the gamut. For example, a company I know of operates nearly 70 retail lumber yards. That’s hardly the type of business that comes to mind when you’re talking high tech. However, this company has been able to leverage RPA software for a very significant impact.

Before deploying intelligent automation software, each lumber yard would scan various documents – receipts, invoices, work orders, etc. – and drop them in a folder on the network. Then accounting employees at headquarters would retrieve those documents and manually enter the data in the accounting system. This process was slow, expensive and error-prone, requiring the efforts of eight full-time employees.

Employees at the lumber yards still scan all the documents. However, now they’re retrieved by RPA software, and that same RPA software does all the data entry, too. The results?

RPA software has replaced all eight employees. (Don’t worry; they were all reassigned to new positions.) What’s more, the company estimates that every two hours of human labor has been reduced to about five minutes of intelligent automation processing.

Accuracy took a big boost, as well. The company reports that the data entry employees were about 85% accurate. The RPA software, on the other hand, is about 99.9% accurate. The only reason it’s not 100% accurate is that sometimes someone at the lumber yard mis-scans a document.

You might also not think of a nonprofit organization as a hotbed of cutting-edge automation. Think again. A seven-year-old charity committed to a hunger-free world, realized early on that better technology leads to a more efficient organization. And that, in turn, leads to more mouths fed.

To help restore the dignity to requesting food assistance, the organization created a mobile app that allows people to request food from anywhere, without the stigma of visiting an office or even talking to someone on the phone. The analytics engine behind the app is smart enough to approve many applicants instantly. In the past, however, unapproved applications would be forwarded to human agents for further review. Based on very specific criteria, some were approved at that point, and others were rejected.

Hiring full-time employees to review pending applications became very expensive, so the organization turned to RPA software. The intelligent automation software now reviews the pending applications and, using an algorithm developed by the organization, renders a final decision on the application. The organization estimates that due to the time and money savings provided by RPA software, they’ll be able to distribute an extra 200,000 meals per year. In other words, RPA software is putting food in people’s mouths.

It’s no longer enough for IT to just keep the computers running. IT needs to be intimately familiar with all aspects of the business. This way, IT can identify opportunities across the entire organization to deploy RPA and other automation technologies, thereby making everyone more efficient and productive.