If there’s any industry that understands robotics, it’s manufacturing. Whether it’s physical robots moving goods from one workstation to the next, or attending to goods on a conveyor belt, manufacturers have been using robots in some form or another since at least the 1960s and 70s when the first instance of modern industrial robot arms emerged. Now, the advent of hyperautomation and different intelligent technologies working together synergistically is transforming the manufacturing organization from robot arms to an entire robotics workforce.
What exactly does this mean, though, and how can hyperautomation help streamline manufacturing workflows?
What Does Hyperautomation Mean?
Gartner defines hyperautomation as the use of “a combination of tools, including robotic process automation (RPA), intelligent business management software (iBPMS) and AI, with a goal of increasingly AI-driven decision making.”
If automation’s end goal is to minimize human involvement by automating repetitive processes, the end goal of hyperautomation is to provide end-to-end digital transformation across all facets of an organization by leveraging an array of tools and technologies.
In other words, hyperautomation is a broad concept to describe an organization’s approach to automation that involves the intersection of many different technologies all working together in harmony.
Hyperautomation in Manufacturing
According to a recent Gartner report, 34% of respondents surveyed among 211 supply chain professionals indicated that adapting to new technology is the most important strategic change supply chain organizations will face five years from now. Additionally, recent developments such as an ongoing labor shortage, a turbulent global supply chain, and rising consumer demands have created a vacuum for inefficiencies to develop, spurring the need for manufacturers to consider new tactics to keep up.
Hyperautomation enables manufacturers to streamline the many different workflows across an organization. The very nature of the manufacturing industry and its many moving pieces, processes, software, and technologies make it an extremely well-suited candidate for hyperautomation.
While manufacturers have certainly made strides in automating repetitive back-office processes, they still have a way to go in automating enterprise-wide. Whether this stems from a general misunderstanding of the technology or intimidation over its complexity, applying hyperautomation holistically across all processes can allow manufacturers to reach new levels of digital transformation.
7 Examples of Hyperautomation in Manufacturing
- Sales order management: When a new sales order comes in, a human must manually extract data and enter information into its respective database. By automating this process, data input and interpretation can be transferred to a bot that does not make mistakes and completes the process in a fraction of the time.
As it specifically relates to sales order management, this encompasses all aspects of the sales order process, including sales order creation, sales order changes, and sales order reporting.
Neostella’s pre-packaged sales order management tool is designed with existing core systems in mind for seamless integration across ERP systems, vendor and customer portals, Excel, and email.
- Inventory management: When you think of manufacturing and supply chain, chances are inventory comes to mind. Having a complete picture of your inventory flow is crucial to avoiding production overflow as well as stock-out situations, where there is not enough product to meet the needs of your customers. Hyperautomation solutions can streamline inventory tracking and reporting, freeing up employees to focus on things like product forecasting and seasonality for optimal inventory levels.
Opportunities for automation include:
- Logging into SAP system and entering pertinent inventory details (inventory movement transaction, movement type, quantity, sales order, etc.)
- Customer emails
- Communication between departments
- Planning for finished good material production where bots can re-assign inventory to new locations and new sales orders so there is no lag in production due to inventory assignment or quantity issues.
- Inbound/outbound goods shipping and receiving: While every manufacturing organization has its own system for shipping and receiving, what they all have in common is that inbound and outbound delivery must work together in harmony to ensure a smooth product journey. Automating inbound/outbound goods shipping and receiving means standardizing the process between the Purchase Order and Inbound Receiving Teams. In doing so, this results in quicker processing times as well as emotional savings for employees who spend the most time on this highly repetitive and error-prone process. It also means more efficient and timely communication with vendors.
- Financial services: Financial services are critical to the day-to-day but involve highly detailed and precise processes and reporting. When you add in the large volume of raw materials and goods and corresponding invoices, manufacturing accounting departments have their work cut out for them.
In addition to reducing processing time and ensuring that suppliers are paid quickly, automating financial processes results in drastically improved employee satisfaction rates.
Some examples of processes include:
- Invoice processing
- Bill of lading management
- Accounts payable
- Inventory supply financial reporting
- Supply chain cost forecasting
- Data management
- SAP/ERP integration: SAP/ERP systems are to manufacturers what LOS systems are to mortgage professionals. In other words, they are complex and expensive to integrate but incredibly important to the inner workings of the industry.
With this understanding in mind, we have created automations that seamlessly integrate within a manufacturing organization’s existing infrastructure and SAP/ERP system to give manufacturers peace of mind, minimize disruption, and help them make the most of their investments.
- Production and supply planning: When it comes to manufacturing, efficiency trumps all. Efficient use of time and resources and efficient planning across all stages of goods and materials – from design, production and delivery to distribution and procurement.
Automating the many moving pieces of production and supply planning can include:
- Order Modification and Cancellation – For Sales Orders, Purchase Orders, and Production Orders, this involves reacting to customer order changes or cancellations and making sure that the correct documents are updated, as well as notifying the correct teams.
- Master Data and BOM (Bill of Materials) Management – Ensuring that our integrations have the correct settings on materials and BOMs so that when manufacturers are ready for production, data is the most up-to-date and accurate.
- Plan and Document Quality Checks – Bots can plan out quality checks as well as perform the necessary documentation for QA Teams during these checks.
- Production Order Work Instruction Updates – If changes are necessary to a particular production order or materials workflow, bots can update those steps at the material level or production order level, as well as any other downstream documents that may exist.
- Customer and vendor support: The customers of today expect more than ever before – and the people delivering that customer service must not only contend with these high expectations but also a myriad of different technologies and mediums of connection. Because of its many different applications, customer service is one of the most common areas to automate.
Benefits to customer support automation include:
- Round-the-clock support
- Cost savings by making your existing team more productive
- Better able to triage cross-departmental requests
- Improved relationship with customers and vendors due to faster response time
Find out how RPA can work with your manufacturing business
To learn more about the above solutions, visit our manufacturing solutions page.