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Article:

Robotic process automation (RPA)

15 June 2020

Terms such as robotics, automation and artificial intelligence have been appearing in connection with the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, known as Industry 4.0, for several years. It refers to the current trend of digitisation and related automation of business processes, and not only in terms of production. Although automation in production has been occurring for decades, currently robotic process automation (RPA), or robotization of processes with artificial intelligence elements (RCA) is coming to the fore. What is it all about?

Robotics is a field dealing with the design and construction of robots. Robots are machines programmed to perform a number of activities largely or completely autonomously. However, it is always a defined sequence of movements. In contrast, artificial intelligence (AI) is an IT industry that uses algorithms that can deal with perception, learning, problem-solving, language comprehension and logical reasoning. Using these algorithms, computer programs are developed to complete tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence. One of these programs is the so-called software robot, which works independently to complete a virtual task, thus mimicking a certain level of human intelligence or human work.

Robotic process automation therefore combines elements of robotics and artificial intelligence. We develop unique solutions for enterprise digitisation and process automation, including automation of routine processes, digitisation of business operations and standardisation of work procedures. We are thus transforming business activities for companies that are looking for workflow innovations and increasing employee efficiency. Today, BDO represents two leading suppliers of robotic platforms, UiPath and Automation Anywhere.

Possibilities of use and benefits of RPA

Suitable candidates for robotics are processes with clearly defined rules that are unchanging or predictable. Such processes are stable and standardised. You know how much it costs you and you can assume that your company will not do without these processes in the future. Moreover, these are repetitive and routine tasks that might unnecessarily burden your qualified employees. Automation is a suitable solution even if you are dealing with a large amount of data and operations that run outside working hours or continuously.

Thanks to robotic process automation, you gain greater control over the compliance and verification of internal processes, and information will become more accurate and available in less time. The productivity of your employees will increase, because you will relieve them of routine operations and allow them to use their knowledge and creativity in solving more complex tasks. This also motivates them, because instead of spending time on boring tasks they can develop in other areas. In addition, the automated process enables continuous availability and scalability (the robot works 24 hours 7 days a week), so it is possible to enter the process at any time and modify its functionality based on your current requirements. If the same process is implemented in other entities of the company, a higher speed of deployment is guaranteed, because the already existing basic parameters of the process can be easily copied to the production environment of the new entity and the settings adjusted according to its specifications.

Automation in practice

Every business environment is specific and every process is unique. Therefore, it is necessary to approach each customer individually and offer a comprehensive solution, including the design of a digitisation strategy, preparation of IT infrastructure and employee training. Process robotization is also a great opportunity to think about the most essential processes and their re-engineering before automation. Robotization projects are mostly initiated by business departments of companies, they are not primarily long and complex IT implementation and integration projects. In addition, process robotization has a typical payback period of 4 to 10 months and therefore has a quick and direct impact on the company's efficiency.

We have already implemented our solutions in multinational companies in logistics, energy, real estate, the financial sector, investment groups and the automotive industry. Below I list the areas in which companies are currently most interested in automation.

Audit

  • Verification of the status of liabilities in public registers
  • Creation of confirmation letters

Finance

  • Automatic issuance of invoices
  • Cash Pooling
  • Clearing
  • Generation and processing of payment orders
  • VAT overview check
  • VAT administration
  • Transcript of received invoices
  • Processing of bank statements
  • Processing of incoming invoices

Back office

  • Document checking in the Register of Contracts
  • Verification and registration of changes in master data
  • Data box management
  • Creating and sending reminders
  • Incoming mail processing
  • Customer care

Reporting

  • Lease agreements and an overview of tenants
  • NFD
  • Receivables
  • Balances, interest and interest rate developments

HR

  • Onboarding
  • Offboarding
  • Attandance processing

For one of our clients, which has 270 entities, we created a daily process of robotized tax returns, VAT control reports and summary VAT statements to financial institutions in the form of data messages, using the client's internal application.

Let's take a look at what the resulting automated process looks like:

What has our client achieved with this solution?

The robot takes care of the process from checking the correctness of the tax return to importing the confirmation that the document was sent to the financial institution. This process runs in the background completely independently, so it does not have to be checked by an employee, who can instead engage in other activities. Another benefit of process automation is the reduction of the number of incorrectly submitted returns, as the robot checks the correctness of tax returns on the tax portal with 100% accuracy. We discovered that before automation the time needed for this process was more than 35 hours per month and required the involvement of two qualified workers. Thanks to automation, the process runs daily, which significantly reduced the length of the document filing process and saved the client the costs for these two employees. We have created a substitutable process that is not affected by outages of skilled workers.

Summary

RPA is not only a way forward, a helper and a guide in the age of digitisation, but also helps mitigate the effects of unexpected changes. The events of recent months have clearly shown how unpredictable changes can affect the operation of otherwise stable companies. We offer automation solutions that continuously support companies and ensure an uninterrupted business flow. We help you stabilise business processes even in unstable times.

Step forward with us on the path of digitisation and innovation.

Dan Vaníček, Monika Horovičová