AI and Robotic Process Automation (Hershey)

When we talk of automation, an automated or semi-automated manufacturing plant comes to our mind. Or something like where an AI-enabled robotic arm is at work in repeat mode over and over again. However, the robotic process automation which I am going to talk about is a software one also commonly known as RPA. At Hershey, I worked with the Information Services team to put a case together to represent the power of RPA by actually automating small tasks to show the technical and financial benefits it gives to our existing capabilities at Hershey.

My Role
Product Manager Intern
3 Months
Skills Used and Nurtured
Technology Consulting, Presentation to leadership, Qualitative research
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The Challenge

  • To evaluate the top three AI powered RPA tools in the industry without actually using them within 10 weeks of time.
  • To present the finding in a persuasive manner backed by data
  • To convince the leadership about the worth and business benefit of using RPA considering that Hershey is a confectionary manufacturing company.

The Process

It starts with a secondary research. A ton of secondary research and few causal interviews with the friends in the industry I came to know that there are three top players in the market – UIPath, Automation Anywhere and BluePrism. Considering the pros and cons of each of them and taking into account the finances and benefits that Hershey was planning to seek, I went ahead with the Blueprism. As compared with Automation Anywhere, Blueprism was more UI friendly and easily trainable and intuitive. Also, compared to UIPath, BluePrism had less functionality but Hershey was not planning to heavily utilize it and squeeze as much benefit as the cost of UIPath (costliest one in the industry).

I finalized BluePrism and planned to showcase the ability of the software in order to make it easy for leadership to make decisions. Below were the benefits that I presented to the leadership.

The first obvious benefit is scalability and flexibility. These bots can be multiplied in number through simple clicks. They can easily manage and share the resources and tasks they are working on. Once setup in a company environment, it is really easy to implement these bots and integrate it through the business processes just in few weeks. Since, bots do not get fatigue, and they are equipped with robust exception handling mechanism, these bots are almost always perfect and deliver the exact same level quality even in the thousandth run. Also, they can work for 24 hrs and 365 days on high speed resulting in multiplication of productivity by many folds. Implemented on scale, it reduces cost achieving economies of scale along with risk reduction due to no human intervention. With these multifaceted benefits, industry has investing heavily in RPA. You can see here, how it is well ranked above all the emerging technologies.

Moreover, I went an extra mile and presented an automated process. The process was “managing delinquent corporate credit card accounts”. In this process, the employee has to perform same repetitive process and steps every time they want to run the process. In short, the task is to login to the Citibank portal, find and download the delinquent accounts report. Then sort the accounts depending upon different criteria like date to use, type of employee, current employee to or have left the company, and then send them email reminders depending upon the bucket which they fall in.

Due to this delinquency, first we are losing on lot of productive hours in mundane repetitive process of sending customized emails and second, due to crossing the date of payments, we are losing on all discounts which we may have got otherwise for on time payment from Citibank. The team feels that increasing the frequency of reminders email will help us getting the payments early for many of them and save us 1000s of dollars in rebates. But it just takes lot of productive time. The whole process took almost 3 hours every week which after automation took less than a minute.

The Impact

The technology means nothing until it has a value for consumer or it has a value to company. Whatever work it does, if it does not generate any value or solves a problem, the solution is of no use. Above graphic shows how much time investment vs savings it gives. The main primary are listed below:

  • The simplicity in using such advanced tool is that, for a novice person like myself, it just took 45-50 hours to automate the process saving approx. 120s hours a year directly saving thousands of dollars on bank rebates.
  • My research and case was presented in front of all IS leadership and other senior fellow colleagues. It had a great impact and I was called to share my research findings in further presentation in details. I was requested to continue working for the project.
  • The direct business impacts which I presented were impactful and realistic which left the audience with a positive thought about utilizing the RPA technology in the company.