Robotic process automation: Driving efficiency
In an industrial environment that is increasingly focused on digital transformation, Safran Engineering Services is providing support for the deployment of robotic process automation (RPA) solutions. Their goals: To eliminate tedious tasks, streamline operations and reduce costs for the company's customers. We asked RPA Group Domain Leader Éric Clavé and Safran Engineering Services Innovation Manager Yves Bley to explain.
RPAs: A new driver of efficiency and digital transformation
Many tasks are essential to the company's smooth running, but offer little added value to employees. Collected data to be sent by email, meetings to organize, purchase orders and invoices to be reconciled, etc.: All these processes involve research, data entry and data collection steps, during which human errors can occur. For streamlined business performance, employees need to be freed from these time-consuming and repetitive tasks which require neither expertise nor an analytical mind.
RPA (for Robotic Process Automation) uses software robots to automate these repetitive tasks. They manipulate data, perform calculations, and communicate with other digital systems to perform identified tasks quickly and automatically. "These are processes that are always identical, requiring no particular thought or expertise," Clavé explains. The software robot performs the tasks just as a human would: It opens the relevant applications and software, clicks on the interface buttons, fills in fields using data from databases, saves, then closes the app and opens another one… "This ability to navigate from one solution to another is one of the strengths of RPA," Bley says.
Safran Engineering Services innovates using RPA
This is why Safran Engineering Services supports its customers in implementing these software robots, and this technology, known as "RPA".
The emphasis has been placed on supporting companies in the group to which Safran Engineering Services belongs: To identify processes that can be automated and support the deployment of RPA solutions that comply with its reference system, Safran has created a new entity, the RPA Factory.
This combines teams from Safran Engineering Services, responsible for developing, maintaining and upgrading existing RPA solutions, with teams from the Safran Group's Central Information Systems Department, who are responsible for setting up the electronic infrastructure hosting the robots. The RPA solutions are developed using UIPath platform technology.
When a Safran customer makes a request for a process to be streamlined, Safran Engineering Services identifies all the non-value-added tasks and determines whether they can be assigned to the robot. "Automation projects can be commissioned in just a few weeks, delivering a quick return on investment," Clavé explains. "For longer processes, we initially deploy the robot for a first stage, then develop the second one in parallel, followed by the third." This iterative approach also includes validation stages on test platforms: The security of information systems, and of the data in question, is of central importance when specifying the automation solution.
Towards improved productivity
Many sectors can benefit from RPA, such as Human Resources, Finance, Purchasing, Supply Chain, and even Support and Services activities, where real productivity gains have already been achieved.
For example, a program of this type has been developed to facilitate the delivery of training courses by Human Resources. The robot retrieves the list of registrants, looks up their availability on Outlook, adds them to one of the open slots, sends them an invitation email, and informs the trainer of the names of the participants at the various sessions.
"We have also developed an RPA solution for a Customer Support team, monitoring a fleet of engines in service. One of their tasks was to produce weekly reports for their various customers, using information stored in several different applications," Clavé explains. This process required a large number of data-handling operations. It was very time-consuming and thus costly, especially since an employee could produce only 35 reports a week instead of the expected 200.
Since the various steps were automated, the employee now only needs to check the robot-generated report before sending it to the customer, and can focus instead on value-added tasks. "All 200 weekly reports are now produced in just a few hours. This therefore means greater productivity, as well as an improvement in the quality of the supplied information, because the robot doesn't make copying errors," Bley adds.
Making the most of staff expertise
RPA thus delivers a genuine competitive boost to corporate digital transformation. Staff can now focus on their core assignments, using the robot as an assistant for repetitive, time-consuming tasks. "This could be what the daily life of all engineers will look like in future," Bley concludes.
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