Top 20 Use Cases & Examples of RPA in SAP in 2024

Top 20 Use Cases & Examples of RPA in SAP in 2024

Let me walk you through the top ways robotic process automation can drive major efficiency gains in your SAP environment today. I‘ve compiled the 20 most impactful use cases with real-world examples to help you uncover automation opportunities.

First, what is SAP and why does it matter? SAP stands for Systems, Applications and Products and is the market-leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) software used by over 400,000 businesses worldwide. It integrates mission-critical processes across departments like finance, HR, supply chain, and manufacturing onto a unified platform.

SAP underpins everything from order-to-cash, purchase-to-pay, planning, and more. But it relies on manual, repetitive workflows that are a drain on productivity and data quality.

This is where RPA comes in. RPA software bots can replicate human actions at digital speed and scale. They excel at automating repetitive, rules-based SAP tasks just like an employee but without the boredom or errors.

Let‘s explore the top 20 use cases where RPA provides major benefits in SAP environments. For each, I‘ve included a real-world example so you can see these applications in action.

  1. Accounts Payable Automation

Processing vendor invoices, verifying details, executing payments, and posting in SAP is tedious for AP staff. RPA bots shine here by gathering invoices from email and systems, validating against POs, calculating totals and due dates, submitting payments, and posting completions.

For example, Virgin Media‘s RPA implementation automated over 180,000 invoices annually, reducing processing costs by 75% and improving on-time payment rates.

  1. Accounts Receivable Management

AR tasks like sending customer invoices, tracking receivables, and cash application are manual and time-consuming. Bots can seamlessly create invoices in SAP, email them to clients, track incoming payments, and automatically reconcile receivables.

Software firm Micro Focus achieved a 92% reduction in manual work by using RPA for order-to-cash processes including AR workflows. Their bot handles over 500,000 SAP transactions annually.

  1. Financial Reconciliations

Reconciling transactions across banking, SAP, and other systems requires tedious manual comparisons. RPA automates this by extracting transactions from different sources, identifying matching items, and creating reconciliations.

Grant Thornton‘s automation center of excellence built a reconciliation bot saving 5,000+ staff hours per quarter. The bot syncs data from 36 finance systems, achieves 98% straight-through reconciliation rates, and completes work in just 20 minutes rather than up to 12 days.

  1. Cash Forecasting and Positioning

Cash forecasting and positioning requires pulling data from SAP modules to predict short-term cash flows. RPA can compile real-time forecasts, automate inter-account transfers to optimize balances and interest income, and handle tedious liquidity management workflows.

hospitality firm Sodexo achieved 99% accuracy on cash forecasting using RPA, up from 70% manually. Their bot also reduced the cycle time from 2 weeks to 2 hours.

  1. Report Generation

Month-end reporting means extracting data from SAP, manipulating in spreadsheets, creating board-ready slides, and distributing to stakeholders. RPA can handle these presentation tasks seamlessly while eliminating repetitive manual work.

TD Bank‘s EasyAutoReport bot builds customized reports on client data 5x faster than employees, saving 35,000 work hours annually. The bot accesses data from SAP and other systems to create PowerPoint and Excel reports in a compliant, auditable manner.

  1. Period End Close

Companies rely on RPA to accelerate period-end close which requires extracting SAP data, performing reconciliations, accruing invoices or revenue, calculating provisions, and executing closing journal entries.

Hitachi Consulting built a period end automation solution reducing close time by 50% for a financial services client. The RPA bot handles reconciliations, data transfers, reporting, and other closing steps seamlessly compliant to SOX controls.

  1. Master Data Management

Managing customer, vendor, material, and other master data across SAP and 3rd party systems involves tedious cleansings, updates, and sync processes. RPA bots excel at validating, enriching, and synchronizing MDM records to maintain accuracy.

Lockheed Martin‘s MDM support bot handles over 275,000 records annually, improving data quality and availability while saving thousands of hours vs manual processes. It syncs customer, vendor, material, and asset data between SAP and their product lifecycle management system.

  1. User Access Provisioning

Provisioning approved access for new employees is manual and can cause security gaps if not done promptly. RPA bots integrate with HR systems to auto-provision access in SAP as soon as a worker is onboarded.

Telecom firm Orange uses RPA to manage access for over 150,000 employees and contractors across apps including SAP. Bots grant access instantly on start dates and automatically disable users who leave or change roles based on HR data.

  1. Supply and Distribution

Order processing involves many manual workflows like checking stock levels and prices, creating delivery documents in SAP, coordinating logistics, and communicating with customers. RPA accelerates this by integrating across order and ERP systems.

Airplane manufacturer Boeing leveraged RPA to intake spare parts orders from airlines, validate product and price data in SAP, auto-generate delivery documents, coordinate shipping, and invoice customers. The bot processes orders 3x faster than staff with 98.7% accuracy.

  1. Materials Requirements Planning

Converting raw MRP outputs into actionable plans requires tedious manual manipulation. RPA aggregates forecasts, stock data, orders, and other inputs to auto-generate optimized MRP plans. Post-MRP, bots also reformat reports and highlight action items for planners.

Chemicals firm BASF automated creation of MRP proposals cutting run time from 2 days to 2 hours. Their bot collects live data across supply chain systems, compiles optimization proposals, and distributes plans to managers in a configurable interactive dashboard.

  1. Managing Purchase Requisitions

Fulfilling purchase requisitions means checking stock and supplier data, creating POs or contracts in SAP, and coordinating with requestors. RPA streamlines requisition management by handling these workflows at rapid speed and scale.

SAIC‘s requisition bot helped reduce processing costs by 85% for a healthcare payer client. It automated translation of 30,000 weekly PRs into POs and scheduling agreements with just 4 bots, enabling large savings in procurement.

  1. Fixed Asset Accounting

Key fixed asset workflows involve pulling invoices and maintenance data, executing depreciations, disposals or impairments, and generating accounting entries in SAP. RPA automates these repetitive accounting steps for efficiency and compliance.

Grant Thornton‘s fixed asset automation solution completes a typical 5 step monthly process in just 20 minutes vs 4 hours manually. The bot seamlessly handles data extraction, calculation, posting, reporting, and archiving.

  1. External Workforce Onboarding

Onboarding external workers like contractors requires creating vendor master records and payment profiles in SAP. RPA easily automates this by pulling approved contractor data from procurement systems and instantly setting them up with the right vendor accounts and access.

At Nokia, bots reduced contractor onboarding from 7 days to 1 day. They automated master data creation, assignment of payment terms, tax forms and access provisioning based on procurement request details for each contractor.

  1. Travel and Expense Reconciliation

Processing T&E reports with manual data entry across multiple systems is slow and error-prone. RPA streamlines this by extracting trip data, auditing for policy compliance, booking accruals in SAP, and reimbursing employees.

Airline Swissport uses RPA to verify, process, and reimburse over 5,000 employee expense reports each month without any human intervention. The bot enforces policy, records accounting entries, and completes T&E settlement 3x faster than staff.

  1. Audit Support

Audits require pulling sample data and documentation from SAP to validate transactions and controls. RPA helps gather samples faster and provides auditors with more time to focus on critical thinking.

Business advisory Firm RSM‘s audit bot gathers samples from SAP and other systems, creates analysis documents, and generates auditor confirmations in a fraction of the typical time. For one client‘s inventory audit, it reduced manual effort by 75%.

  1. Quality Inspections

Proactively identifying data issues in SAP requires intensive manual reviews. RPA enables continuous quality checks by automatically sampling transactions, identifying anomalies, and flagging for correction before downstream impact.

Software firm Micro Focus uses RPA to continuously sample and validate SAP master data. In one year, the bot identified over 25,000 data exceptions that would have caused business disruptions if not proactively detected and resolved.

  1. Sales Order Processing

Fulfilling orders requires extensive manual steps in SAP like validating customer details, checking stock, calculating pricing, and generating docs for shipping and invoicing. RPA integrates these workflows across front and back-end systems for efficiency.

Amazon uses RPA in its order management process to retrieve customer details, reserve inventory, calculate shipping, apply discounts, produce invoices, and synchronize data between its web platform and ERP system. The bot handles millions of orders daily with extreme accuracy.

  1. Supplier Invoice Reconciliation

Verifying supplier invoices manually against POs and receipts is time intensive and risky. RPA automates invoice reconciliation by extracting documents from vendors and SAP, auditing line items, resolving exceptions, and posting completions.

Energy firm Engie enhanced productivity by 45% using RPA for invoice reconciliation. Their bot handles over 400,000 invoices annually, seamlessly matching purchase orders and goods receipts data with vendor invoices for touchless processing.

  1. Maintenance Work Order Creation

In asset heavy industries, RPA optimizes maintenance execution by combining sensor data, schedules, and equipment logs to automatically generate work orders in SAP Plant Maintenance.

Mining leader Rio Tinto leverages predictive maintenance bots to analyze sensor data from heavy equipment and auto-create maintenance work orders in SAP. This prevents unplanned downtime and improves maintenance productivity by over 25%.

  1. Material Master Updates

Manually reviewing and updating product data records in SAP material masters is tedious and risky. RPA bots can regularly extract material master data, validate against source systems, and automatically update any incorrect attributes.

French rail company SNCF implemented RPA to sync its material master between SAP and an external product database. The bot checks over 50,000 material codes daily, updating descriptions, specifications, suppliers, and other fields while archiving a full audit trail.

Benefits of Implementing RPA in SAP

As the examples illustrate, RPA delivers game-changing ROI across a diverse range of SAP processes. Let‘s review some of the specific benefits you can realize:

  • Accelerates order-to-cash, record-to-report, and other critical SAP workflows by 2-10X
  • Reduces manual workloads by 50% or more for repetitive data tasks
  • Minimizes errors by eliminating human data entry and enforcing business rules
  • Drives 24/7 productivity with software robots that don‘t sleep
  • Improves compliance by automatically recording audit trails for ERP transactions
  • Enables fast scalability by adding bots as your transaction volumes grow
  • Unlocks wasted capacity equivalent of dozens of FTEs for redeployment to strategic roles
  • Provides quick ROI with reasonably low investment and minimal business disruption

According to research by Horses for Sources, RPA delivers benefit-to-cost ratios between 2-8x on initial investments, with payback periods as short as 3-15 months.

Overcoming Challenges with RPA in SAP

However, RPA also comes with common pitfalls to be aware of:

  • Bot failures due to unhandled exceptions or scenario changes
  • Integration difficulties across complex enterprise IT environments
  • Concerns about job losses from automation
  • Difficulty measuring benefits and ROI
  • Prioritizing the right processes for automation

Thankfully these challenges can be overcome with the right approach:

  • Implement proper bot governance including exception handling and monitoring
  • Leverage your RPA provider‘s integration expertise for complex environments
  • Involve employees to set an automation vision focused on value over cost
  • Define metrics aligned to business outcomes like customer satisfaction or working capital efficiency
  • Conduct workflow assessments to identify automation candidates with maximum impact

Done right, RPA liberates your employees from drudgery so they can focus on more meaningful, strategic opportunities.

Best Practices for Implementing RPA in SAP

Based on the experience of hundreds of enterprises, here are my top 7 recommendations:

  1. Start small – Prove value with a pilot before scaling across the enterprise
  2. Focus on repetitive, rules-based workflows – The "sweet spot" for RPA
  3. Involve IT early – But maintain business ownership of the initiatives
  4. Design for exception handling – Automate error resolution to maximize uptime
  5. Integrate with existing tools – Leverage capabilities from existing tech investments
  6. Monitor closely – Track metrics aligned to business goals beyond just cost
  7. Manage change – Transition staff smoothly into new roles on automation initiatives

Following these best practices will position your RPA programs for maximum business impact with minimal disruption.

The Future of RPA in SAP

RPA adoption in SAP is growing rapidly as enterprises realize the huge potential for driving productivity and data quality. SAP itself is now actively embedding automation, machine learning, and other intelligent technologies into its solutions via the SAP Intelligent Enterprise framework.

This convergence of automation and enterprise software will enable end-to-end digital acceleration of business processes without needing armies of consultants and developers. Technologies like RPA, artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain and advanced analytics will all integrate seamlessly with tomorrow‘s intelligent ERP platforms.

As SAP customers, you have an opportunity to become automation leaders. Getting started now with a targeted RPA approach will teach you lessons and build capabilities that enable intelligent process automation at scale in the future.

So Which Processes Will You Automate First?

Across this guide, I presented 20 practical applications along with real-world examples of RPA delivering tremendous value in SAP environments today. The possibilities span frontend customer processes like order-to-cash all the way to backend functions like financial close and auditing.

Now you have a blueprint to jumpstart your automation journey. The key is to start small, prove value quickly, and scale. Attack the most repetitive processes first where bots can deliver the biggest bang for your buck.

Done right, RPA in SAP gives you the best of all worlds – optimized productivity, improved data quality, and happier employees focused on meaningful work while mundane tasks get automated behind the scenes.

So look across your business – where will RPA make the biggest impact? I challenge you to pick 1-2 use cases and run small proofs of concept. Prove the value and potential, then grow from there.

I hope this guide has been helpful and provided some fresh ideas on how to harness automation in SAP. The opportunities are truly endless – but you have to start somewhere. Let me know if I can help further as you explore your RPA journey!

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