Jan 15, 2020 Metso World blog

Robotics à la Metso – A recipe for successful RPA implementation

Minna Helppi
Minna Helppi
SVP, Group Treasurer
We got into software robotics a few years ago, when we heard the success story of another listed company. We decided to test software robotics first by piloting a couple of processes in Metso’s group treasury. After the successful pilot, software robotics has become a part of our everyday life, and it is now used across various organizations. Nowadays, we work more and more frequently with our robot colleagues.
People have a meeting at a working cafe.

In the list below, I have collected ten proven ingredients for a successful recipe.

  1. The best ideas come from the people most familiar with the work

Once my team understood what kind of processes benefits the most from software robotics (processes that are repetitive, regular, boring, routine or that require precision), straightaway they came up with many great ideas about which processes or tasks to apply robotics to. The best expert of the process worked in close collaboration with the developer, so even at the pilot stage, we could assign the task of compiling treasury’s morning reports to the robot. When Robin the Robot has completed the report in the morning, its human colleagues can start their day by getting to work as outlined in the report – whether it was liquidity management or currency hedging transactions. 

  1. Increase awareness of robotics

In order to collect ideas about process automation, we have increased awareness in various ways. Now people know of what processes are worth automating with robotics, of the criteria we use for selecting the processes, and of the requirements the automation sets for the experts. We have written articles online, published all our automations for everyone to see, held info sessions, and presented the idea in various management groups. Once or twice a month we organize an online introductory session to robotics, and it is free for everyone who wants to learn more and ask questions. We also held a name contest, in which we selected first names for our robots and rewarded the best suggestions. For certain employees, process automation was determined as their annual target. We have also arranged hackathons, in which the participants have automated their very first processes.

  1. Alleviate fears

At first, many thought that a robot would take their job. With the right kind of communication, we have introduced the idea that a robot will actually help people by performing all of the dull routine tasks, thus freeing them to focus on the more fun, value adding tasks. It is also possible to have the robot perform checks on the background, so that possible errors could be quickly caught, and that reconciling figures after the turn of the month, for example, would not take that much time.

We also decided to humanize our robots: We made the robots our colleagues by giving them names, icons as their faces and an email address. Each robot has its own username, and it is given access rights to those systems it needs to perform its work. In discussions, we refer to our robot colleagues with their first names.

  1. Build up competence and provide opportunities to develop

We offer in-house training for all our employees to become a Business Analyst or a Developer in robotics, if people have the time and are interested in completing the necessary training. Knowledge and understanding of this new technology has intrigued many! The more people understand software robotics, the better we have been able to automate processes.

We celebrate victories and publish regularly information on how many processes have been automated, and how much time our robot colleagues have saved.
  1. Request for ideas with a low threshold

We collect robotics ideas with a low threshold: anyone can suggest their process or task to be automated with robotics. We have certain criteria for selecting the processes for automation.

  1. Let the best ideas be widely known

We communicate what kind of problems robots have been set to solve. We also hold regular meetings to cover these topics and review various solutions. When someone thinks of using a robot to check whether each of the subsidiaries have updated their information to the appropriate system and to send reminders, if necessary, someone else might get inspired: they could use a robot for a similar task in their organization. We celebrate victories and publish regularly how many processes have been automated with software robotics, and how much time our robot colleagues have saved from our human colleagues.

  1. Centralized robot management, decentralized innovation

We decided to manage our robots and their processes centrally in the IT function. Our virtual team is called the RPA Factory, and it monitors the operation of the robots and makes sure that the processes function, even if the systems were modified. Although anyone could train to become a Developer, we also have centralized resources at the RPA Factory to support us in automating new processes globally across the group.

  1. Use a robot as the first or the last part of the automation

Software robotics is not the best solution for everything. It works best in manual tasks, for which no automation is currently available via our systems. On the other hand, it also fits well in performing those manual tasks that still remain after system automation. Sometimes it might be cheaper and easier to have a robot work in between two systems, if building an interface is costly and time-consuming.

  1. Harmonize the processes

Software robotics could be the most beneficial, when the processes are standardized across various units, for example. This means that the robot could also cover greater volumes. In some cases, automating one separate process with a robot could bring great time savings.

Harmonization brings scaling advantage, and it is also beneficial, when the processes are reviewed step by step and all non-essential elements can be left out. We have increased the amount of lean training, and as a result, many processes are now more straightforward and efficient.

  1. Partner the robot with intelligence

Our first robot colleagues have performed routine tasks without much intelligence: they have repeated the same process as it has been taught to them, whenever needed, and as long as they have been allowed to operate. The next step is to partner the robot with a little more intelligence in the form of AI.