Does robotics eliminate the need for process improvement?

This week I have been listening to the PEX RPA Live event and reflecting on the relevance of process improvement as more and more processes have robots applied to them.

Over the last two years there has been much written about both the advantages and disadvantages of robotics and its capability to simplify processes. It raises the question of what does it mean for process improvements initiatives – are they still relevant and how do they work with robotics?

The answer is that robotics and process improvement work very much hand in hand. Robotics is the automation of simple repetitive tasks, whereas process improvement when done well, is the overarching end to end review of processes which leverages a range of solutions to optimize the process, of which robotics is one way to delivering that improvement.

This was demonstrated to us in an initiative we completed improving the time to decision a home loan. The touch time in the process only represented 4% of the total turnaround time. The end to end of review of the process resulted in significant improvements in turnaround time, predominantly through improving that way the team was organsied and the workflow. Automation of steps contributed to the turnaround time, but as touch time was such a small component of the elapsed time it only had minimal contribution to the overall improvement.

Robotics in isolation of processes improvement has the potential to drive significant improvements in the parts of the process which are simple and repetitive as it automates components of processes. However, automating poorly designed processes still retains the poorly designed process, even though they might be quicker to execute. It is the combination of process improvement with the appropriate set of solutions, which can include robotics, which will deliver business significant improvement in process performance and customer experience into the future.

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