RPA bots for quality assurance

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In the corporate world, software robots have the potential to take over administrative tasks, relieve employees and increase efficiency.

Quality management can manage the digitalization of processes as a designer by setting the methodological framework. Essential prerequisites for implementation are lean and stable processes, 100 percent quality of master data, or even the creation of connectivity between the digital and real worlds. VDMA NRW, in cooperation with ProduktionNRW, held an event on these topics on 28 May 2021 as part of the Quality Management Working Group.

In an exchange of experiences, the participants discussed the role that quality management can play in the digital transformation. SEW-EURODRIVE GmbH & Co KG, an international family-owned company and manufacturer of drive technology, presented a methodology for process automation using RPA (Robotic-Process-Automation-Process). RPA is a software-supported method that imitates the PC user. The program can take over recurring standardized processes in Outlook, the downloading and automated provision of documents on customer portals or the sending of e-mails that follow the same patterns. These automated processes are called software robots in the following.

Software robots perform important tasks for quality assurance: They can independently check quotations for errors or irregularities. In logistics, for example, the weights of packages can be compared to find out if something is missing before delivery to the customer. Daniela Bokan, Digital Sales & Business Process Manager at SEW-EURODRIVE, explained that one of the biggest challenges here is to gain employee acceptance for new digital processes. They are often skeptical that the automation projects will take over too many human tasks. However, the benefits outweigh the risks: High standardization, reuse and quality assurance with an accompanying gain of time. The employees can use this time more effectively for other tasks with less stress at the same time. At the end of the day, a high level of acceptance of the technology emerges despite previous scepticism.

The key to the implementation was to involve the departments in the lead of the process developments, Bokan told the participants of the event. Thus, the RPA developers are trained directly in the individual departments. In addition to the high level of acceptance in the specialist departments, this approach brings with it a higher number of automation ideas, as the developers have a high level of process knowledge and have close contact with other employees in the specialist departments. These collected automation ideas are reviewed by an RPA specialist group together with the IT contact persons - and if suitable - automated in the specialist department using RPA.

However, there are also disadvantages: The training of the colleagues from the specialist department in this IT topic leads to an increased training effort and thus to a lower implementation speed than if the developers had been established centrally in the company.

After the practical presentation, Dr. Frank Bünting, VDMA Business Advisory, addressed the challenge of digital transformation. It is important to completely rethink and design the analogue processes when transferring them to the digital world and to adapt them individually to the circumstances of the company. Often, when implementing the change processes, a person is missing who sets the first structures. This is exactly where quality management can come in and bring together developers and departments, for example, to initiate the change processes.

Software robots have a future in the corporate world because they have the potential to take over administrative tasks, relieve employees and increase efficiency. Errors are also reduced and quality is improved. In addition, there is further potential for development in terms of artificial intelligence (AI). In this context, bots are a first step towards AI. However, bots cannot be used for complex tasks: At this point, humans, who are still cognitively far superior to machines, take over by being able to make emotional decisions.

Organizer

The event was offered by VDMA NRW in cooperation with ProduktionNRW. ProduktionNRW is the competence network of mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is carried out by the VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform for networking, informing and marketing companies, institutions and networks among themselves and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).