Can something so good be made any better?
Life is always changing, and with humanity entering fully two decades into the 21st century, technology is proving to be an essential tool for improving anything in human life – especially work.
Businesses are now transitioning into Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or for much shorter referencing, i4.0. This digital transformation into data-centric, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered systems is becoming the industrial “new norm.”
The man who coined the term itself, World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said, “It is blurring the lines between physical, digital, and biological spheres,” in 2016.
For the manufacturing industry, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is quickly changing the way things are done, in a good way.
While it’s too early to say how much it can change things, it’s clear that everyone is getting on the tech boat: in 2017, a study for the European Patent Office showed a 54% increase in patents filed for Industry 4.0-related fields from the preceding three years.
If you’re still not convinced, research firm Gartner estimates that spending on RPA will total around $2.4 billion by 2022 coming from a $680 million year-end value in 2018. Forrester, on the other hand, approximates the value at $2.9 billion by 2021.
The movement is that big, so it’s no wonder everyone is adopting this shift.
When you look at it, RPA is making its way into many other industries. But for the sake of focused discussion, let’s get particular with its effects on the Fast-moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies, who benefit significantly from it.
For example in India, where FMCG is the 4th largest sector of the country’s economy (estimated to reach $220 billion by 2025), household and personal care, as well as beverages, make up 69% of the industry revenues.
It’s not far fetched that this sector is needing a lot of automation.
Making sense out of an unruly mess, hands-free
When we think of the word “robots” or “robotic automation” the usual picture in mind is probably a mass-producing factory product like bottled beverages, packaged dry goods, and cars.
That’s true, but robots are also found inside machines – instructions that run more than just physical robots, but also software ones.
In this area, RPA fixes disorganised data into useful forms we humans can understand, and FMCG firms are keen into such solutions.
Management is a primary problem for FMCG manufacturers. Needless to say, they require a lot in that area.
Any manufacturing firm has a lot of things to worry about – internal corporate processes, production lines, ordering and inventory, distribution, human resources, and the list goes on. Net losses resulting from compounded problems in these management areas are always lost opportunities for profit.
RPA essentially solves these problems with the innate power of robotic computing and data science. It’s a given how computers can perform complex calculations faster than any human, and more accurately too.
Key areas that FMCG companies want to use automation for processes include Sales Analytics, In-store Planning, Trade Promotions, Supply Chain Optimisation, Predictive Maintenance, and Quality Control, among others.
Do you know the feeling of how one small problem left alone for some time can grow into a massive tangle of setbacks?
It’s a common challenge in product-based companies. A simple hitch in the production line, an unnoticed machine part needing maintenance or servicing, or a skipped step in the order line – can lead to a chain reaction that hinders overall productivity.
Here’s an example of how software robots can help manufacturing productivity:
In a real-life scenario project by automation firm UiPath, they deployed an automation strategy and process for agent-assisted work and back-office intensive activities for a global FMCG retailer and distributor.
By the project’s close at the end of 2017, the automation helped generate productivity gains in 62 process activities and reduced normal cycle times by 60%, which is three times faster than advisors.
Even small companies benefit from the smart use of process automation.
Many Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are now aiding marketers and executives of smaller consumer goods makers by improving data entry, monitoring, and reporting.
Automated processes are even better for start-up product companies, as they have smaller scales of tasks to manage.
Helping humans help themselves
Have you ever tried working with so many things at the same time that you and your colleagues feel you can’t handle it anymore?
In a business landscape where advanced analytics is front and centre, machine learning is a blessing and a seed for growth. Its advancement in i4.0-ready companies is boosting the way leadership teams gain valuable insights and therefore make better decisions.
Business operations is one of the areas that RPA helps a lot, especially in making life more manageable.
“In the face of new technologies, people will be able to use them to benefit mankind, as most people aspire to a good life,” said Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei in a Davos tech session about Industry 4.0.
Many automation products are helping ease the brain drain from companies and alleviating strain from mentally-challenging tasks. They also benefit in restructuring information from a silo-based approach to a cloud-based integrated one.
Hear the story of TreasuryONE, a small South Africa-based financial services firm:
The company’s Head of Technology Rudolph Van Rensburg went on a Google binge researching for tools and RPA to help them with their processes, and found one online. From their experience as a small company, processes can balloon to around 200 at a time, and they needed help.
“Our team went for (processes) that would save us even small costs, (using bots for tasks) that would save us around 5-10 minutes on a daily basis. Automating those processes end up with quite a big amount of time saved in a day,” he said.
They employed RPA bots from their partner and successfully grew their company using Unattended Bots. These bots optimised their output efficiency by executing tasks and interacting with the required applications for a certain process, reducing the number of eyes and hands needed to finish the work.
Neat isn’t it? But process automation can take you even further.
Smart tech for cities and everyday life
The persistence of technology in everyday life will continue to rise as more cities become urbanised, and the more advanced ones transcend into smart cities. For manufacturing companies, this would mean a need for more efficient planning, and of course data gathering.
Fortunately, developers of machine learning have been continuously making significant progress in managing assets and resources, social listening and collection of consumer data, and analysing critical (and repetitive) processes in companies.
This means a big help in human-related data: from collecting information from human input to interacting with them.
Have you experienced browsing through websites to be greeted by chatbots? That’s one example of how RPA helps companies collect data, and make work easier for just about everyone.
This can help FMCG companies with their digital marketing and branding efforts, as process automation can assist them with social listening, processing surveys and generating valuable insights and reports.
Having accurate customer data can translate to huge savings for brands. If you’ve seen how data collection was like in previous decades, you’ll realise how expensive it was.
Gathering information was done through extensive market research, which involved spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on employing interviewers, launching information campaigns on traditional media, and other means.
With the help of strategically-placed bots in platforms, marketers can easily gain useful data to augment their advertising campaigns with and attract the market they want without needing extra hands. Quick, efficient, and easy.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is gradually attracting FMCG firms and other industries to a path of digital transformation.
Through the help of data science, the ever-increasing efficiency of AI and data analytics is forging a new era of human activities in the digital realm.
Manufacturers are one of the industries that will benefit the most from its use, as it can touch so many aspects of their business that it will virtually become a core component for product-centric companies soon.
There’s just so much you can do with automation and its usefulness in digital marketing.
With RPA and other forms of automation, big industries can benefit from partnering with smaller digital agencies such as Corporality, which can give them a breathing room through the deployment of CRM and other automation products to help with their processes.
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