Top 8 Use Cases & Benefits of RPA in Manufacturing

Robotic process automation (RPA) offers tremendous potential to transform manufacturing by automating high-volume, repetitive tasks. This article will provide you with a comprehensive analysis of the top use cases for RPA in manufacturing along with an overview of the major benefits it delivers.

Here are the top 8 processes in manufacturing that can be automated using RPA:

  1. Invoice Processing
  2. Supply Chain Management
  3. Bill of Materials (BOM) Management
  4. Inventory Management
  5. Inventory Reporting
  6. Data Management
  7. Order Fulfillment
  8. Proof of Delivery

Deploying software bots to handle these manual, repetitive processes can greatly boost your manufacturing productivity, reduce costs, and improve quality. Let‘s look at each use case in more detail.

1. Invoice Processing

Invoice processing is incredibly tedious, time-consuming and prone to errors when done manually. It involves numerous repetitive steps:

  • Receiving supplier invoices via email or mail
  • Extracting relevant data from invoices such as amount, items purchased, quantities
  • Verifying supplier details
  • Cross-checking invoice data against purchase orders
  • Identifying any discrepancies or duplicate invoices
  • Entering invoices into ERP or accounting software
  • Filing invoices for future reference

This is where RPA can make a significant impact. Software bots excel at repetitious tasks like data entry and validation. RPA bots can:

  • Automate data extraction from invoices using optical character recognition (OCR)
  • Compare extracted data to purchase orders to validate accuracy
  • Flag any duplicate invoices or mismatches
  • Update your ERP system by creating invoice records
  • Route valid invoices to approvers
  • File electronic copies

According to research by Deloitte, RPA reduces the cost of invoice processing by approximately 70-90%. It slashes the time required from days to just hours. This frees up your accounts payable team to focus on more strategic tasks.

RPA also minimizes costly errors that often occur with manual data entry and verification. One study found invoice processing error rates declined by 25-50% after RPA implementation.

Benefits of RPA for Invoice Processing

Cost reduction70-90% decrease in invoice processing costs by eliminating manual labor
Increased speedInvoice processing time cut from days to hours
Error reduction25-50% drop in error rates
Productivity gainsAP staff freed to perform higher value tasks

2. Supply Chain Management

Managing global supply chains involves integrating data across multiple systems and locations. RPA can help optimize supply chain performance by automating repetitive data activities like:

  • Logging into supplier portals to check order status
  • Extracting order status updates from supplier emails
  • Entering order delivery details into transportation management systems
  • Generating delivery documents like advance ship notices and customs paperwork
  • Creating reports on supply chain KPIs such as on-time delivery rates

RPA seamlessly integrates with your existing supply chain applications. Bots run on your system front-ends to automate data entry, file transfers, report creation, and other repetitive tasks. This saves tremendous time and effort compared to manual processes.

McKinsey estimates that RPA can reduce supply chain process costs by 20-40%. Automation also minimizes errors from manual work. Supply chain data accuracy improves by over 50% according to early RPA adopters.

Benefits of RPA for Supply Chain Management

Cost reduction20-40% decrease in supply chain process costs
Improved accuracy50%+ increase in supply chain data accuracy
Increased efficiencyAutomation of repetitive data tasks
Better reportingAutomated dashboards and KPI reporting

3. Bill of Materials (BOM) Management

A bill of materials (BOM) is a crucial manufacturing document that lists all the components and raw materials required to build a product. But BOM creation is still often a manual process involving many repetitive steps:

  • Extracting component data from CSV files, CAD drawings, spec sheets
  • Mapping and normalizing raw component data into standard BOM templates
  • Validating component information like descriptions, quantities needed, sizes
  • Making revisions as engineering changes occur
  • Publishing BOM documents in Excel, PDF or other formats

RPA can help automate large portions of BOM management to eliminate repetitive manual work:

  • Bots can be trained to identify and extract component data from almost any digital document or file format. This enables easy consolidation of component information from multiple sources into BOM templates.
  • Data validation, revisions and updates can be handled automatically by bots based on pre-defined rules and logic checks programmed by RPA developers.
  • Final published BOMs can be auto-generated in the required formats for downstream manufacturing processes.

Leading manufacturers report BOM processing time reductions of 50% or more using RPA automation. Bots also reduce human errors that often occur in manual BOM creation. This results in more accurate product builds.

Benefits of RPA for BOM Management

Faster processing50%+ reduction in BOM processing time
Improved qualityFewer errors from automating data entry and validation
Increased agilityRapid response to engineering changes
Higher outputAccelerated product introductions

4. Inventory Management

There are many repetitive manual tasks involved in inventory management that bots can take over:

  • Monitoring stock levels and triggering replenishment orders
  • Managing receipt and putaway of incoming inventory
  • Tracking inventory locations and movements on the floor
  • Generating inventory reports and KPIs
  • Responding to inventory inquiries from staff

RPA provides an automation solution for these types of repetitive rules-based tasks:

  • Bots can continuously monitor your WMS and ERP systems to identify when stock levels drop below predefined thresholds and automatically create replenishment orders.
  • Incoming inventory can be booked and putaway instructions generated based on predefined logic for storage locations.
  • Inventory movements can be logged automatically simply by extracting data from scanned barcodes.
  • Periodic reporting can be scheduled and automated by having bots extract inventory data and populate templates.

Leading manufacturers are seeing inventory process efficiency gains of over 50% with RPA. Automating routine inventory management tasks also improves data accuracy. This leads to potential cost savings through lower inventory carrying costs.

Benefits of RPA for Inventory Management

Increased efficiency50%+ improvement in inventory process efficiency
Higher accuracyError reduction from automation
Cost savingsLower carrying cost through optimal inventory
Labor reductionAutomating repetitive manual work

5. Inventory Reporting

Inventory reporting is essential for manufacturing visibility but extremely tedious to manage manually:

  • Data needs to be continuously collected from various sources like WMS, ERP and production systems
  • Extracted data must be validated and normalized into proper formats
  • Reports need to be structured using standard templates and designs
  • Final reports have to be generated and distributed to relevant stakeholders on schedule

RPA can readily automate the repetitive aspects of inventory reporting:

  • Bots can be scheduled to pull required data from source systems on a fixed cadence
  • They apply all the business rules and logic required for data validation/normalization
  • Reports are auto-compiled by populating templates with extracted data
  • Final PDF or Excel reports can be auto-emailed to recipients or stored in designated folders

Automated inventory reporting with RPA ensures you have high quality, timely reports consistently available without manual effort. Errors and delays are minimized. Better inventory visibility drives smarter supply chain decisions.

Benefits of RPA for Inventory Reporting

EfficiencyAutomates repetitive reporting steps
AccuracyError reduction from automation
TimelinessOn-demand reports with latest data
ConsistencyStandard reports using templates

6. Data Management

Manufacturing generates massive amounts of data from systems, sensors, equipment and more. But making this data useful requires collecting, cleansing, transforming and loading it into reporting systems – all incredibly tedious manual tasks.

According to research by EY, manufacturers spend up to 50% of an analyst‘s time simply obtaining and preparing data for analysis. RPA can help maximize the value of your manufacturing data by automating repetitive data management processes including:

  • Data extraction from structured sources like production databases as well as unstructured data from emails, spreadsheets, PDFs and more
  • Data validation and quality checks
  • Data normalization and transformation into target formats
  • Aggregating data from multiple systems into data warehouses or lakes
  • Scheduling and managing batch ETL (extract, transform, load) jobs

RPA provides a hands-off solution for essential data management tasks that take up so much manual time today. Bots can work around the clock to keep your data pipelines flowing smoothly and your reporting systems stocked with high-quality, analysis-ready data.

Benefits of RPA for Data Management

Productivity gainsReduce time spent on repetitive data tasks by 50%+
Better analyticsHigher quality data leads to better insights
Cost reductionLower overhead by reducing manual labor
ScalabilityBots easily manage increasing data volumes

7. Order Fulfillment

Order processing involves many manual steps that cause delays and errors:

  • Monitoring emails and systems for new orders
  • Entering order details into ERP and fulfillment systems
  • Generating pick lists and shipping documents
  • Sending order status updates and shipping notifications to customers

RPA bots can seamlessly automate the repetitive aspects of order fulfillment:

  • Continuously monitor your order channels – email, EDI, etc. – to instantly identify new orders
  • Extract required data from orders and rapidly create related transactions in your ERP
  • Produce pick lists, packing slips, invoices needed for order fulfillment
  • Send order confirmations and shipping notices to buyers

This automation provides a hands-off solution to accelerate order fulfillment. Orders are processed faster with fewer errors. Customers receive more timely updates. Your staff is freed from routine clerical tasks to focus on more strategic work.

According to McKinsey, RPA can improve fulfillment process efficiency by 20-40%. Order accuracy also rises dramatically when manual mistakes are eliminated.

Benefits of RPA for Order Fulfillment

Increased speed20-40% improvement in fulfillment efficiency
Higher accuracyAutomating order entry improves accuracy
Better CSProactive customer order updates
ProductivityStaff focused on value-add work

8. Proof of Delivery

Proof of delivery (POD) documents provide critical confirmation that your products have been successfully delivered to buyers. But POD management involves tedious manual steps:

  • Monitoring shipping data from carriers to identify completed deliveries
  • Extracting delivery details like date, time, location
  • Generating POD documents populating required info
  • Sending POD documents to buyers

RPA eliminates the human effort required in this process by automatically:

  • Checking shipping/WMS systems for completed deliveries
  • Pulling the required delivery data
  • Producing POD documents by populating delivery details into templates
  • Distributing PODs to customers immediately upon delivery

This ensures POD documents are consistently generated and provided to your customers in a timely manner for all shipments. Buyers can easily match deliveries to their orders. Your staff is freed from the repetitive POD creation process.

Benefits of RPA for Proof of Delivery

Improved CSImmediate POD documents for customers
Increased accuracyAutomated population of delivery data
Higher productivityEliminates repetitive manual work
Less disputesTimely PODs avoid delivery confusion

The use cases highlighted above show the enormous potential for RPA to drive efficiency in your manufacturing operations. But how do you get started with RPA to achieve real business results? Here are best practices based on lessons learned from early RPA adopters:

Start with a pilot: Begin with a small pilot focused on 1-2 suitable processes like invoice processing. Measure results and refine your approach before scaling.

Calculate your ROI: Build a business case by analyzing the potential hard and soft cost savings and productivity improvements from automating specific processes.

Pick the right processes: Good initial candidates have high volume, repetitive rules-based tasks with digital input/outputs. More complex processes can be automated later as capabilities mature.

Define governance: Institute robust governance to manage bots across the enterprise. This includes things like access controls, change protocols, and monitoring.

Build in-house expertise: Develop expertise by training staff on RPA tools and best practices. Center of excellence teams are great for capturing and disseminating learnings.

Manage change impacts: Get buy-in across your organization through engagement, training and transitioning impacted workers to new roles.

RPA provides a gateway for manufacturers to leverage intelligent automation. Combining RPA with smarter technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics unlocks further opportunities to automate complex processes and enhance decision making.

As RPA delivers value, manufacturers are expanding deployments to new processes and areas, integrating bots deeper into systems, and connecting them to more data sources. With RPA as a core capability, manufacturers can lay the groundwork today to evolve into Autonomous Manufacturing powered by intelligent automation.

So in summary, RPA offers tremendous potential to automate repetitive manual tasks across your manufacturing operations. The use cases and benefits highlighted in this guide provide a great starting point to identify high-impact automation opportunities in your organization. Follow the recommendations to craft a successful RPA program that maximizes productivity, quality and performance – now and into the future.

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