“Robots Do Have ‘Maximum’ Capacity” – Q&A with Niclas Sjöswärd, COO at Sweden’s Getinge Group
Q: What is driving your shared services strategy at the moment?
We have embarked on a transformation journey with the Getinge Group which among other things includes an ambitious efficiency improvement. We are relying on our shared services center structure to deliver these efficiencies. Once we evaluated the task before us, we quickly realized that the way to get there would be through automation, standardization, and optimization.
Q: How and where did RPA enter the picture?
It's been hard to avoid RPA headlines over the past two years. We had been kicking around some ideas internally for a while ourselves, but what really shifted gears for us was realizing that robotics was the solution we were looking for to combat the fragmented legacy systems that were slowing us down. Frankly, it's just the answer. Anyone struggling to automate without the benefit of a single ERP system will tell you that short of investing a fortune, robotics is the fastest way to address some of the burning challenges we face. Of course it's not the sole solution nor is it the ideal long-term solution. But in terms of being able to address the problem and move on it's been great for us.
Q: How do you go about deciding where and how a robotic solution works?
Obviously, we ran a proof of concept, for which we partnered with our BPO provider. We didn't want to reinvent the wheel but we did want to assess innovative solutions and take advantage of them. The proof of concept took just 4 weeks and did just what it promised – proved the concept, and cracked open the door for us. We were able to present the business case to management who liked what they saw.
Q: What advice would you share regarding RPA's implementation?
Whether it's robotics or another improvement solution, you need to establish a baseline so that you can measure the value you have created against it. What's amazing about robotics is that you can set up a robot in weeks, not months, and the value is quickly realized.
Q: What is an example of a process that you have applied robotics to?
For us, order handling within order-to-cash was a key candidate. It's repetitive and transactions-oriented which makes it a prime opportunity for RPA. In addition, we experience peaks at certain times which drive up the need for human resources. We could showcase that this process could be automated to almost 100%.
Q: To what extent are you able to translate automation into cost savings?
It really depends on the process. Some processes can be automated sufficiently to drive 40% savings, others 25%. The real differentiator is the extent to which the robot can take over the process. The more the robot takes over, the higher the level of process automation, the more savings.
Q: How soon do you expect to reap returns on your investment?
We expect to have fully paid back the initial investment within eight months.
Q: What’s something you've learned about robotics that you had not anticipated?
Interestingly enough, robots do have maximum capacity! There are limitations to what a robot can do, but it's not necessarily like the CPU capacity of a PC. It's dictated by the number of legacy systems they need to access and the speed of response time of the systems. The robot needs inputs and it needs to pass on outputs. While the part the robot controls can be highly efficient, you have to bear in mind that it is still dependent on your input speed, and the speed at which it can pass on its outputs. Many people overlook this.