Harnessing automation for good in manufacturing

The benefits software automation technologies bring to the manufacturing industry are undeniable.

Manufacturing is an industry that has long been at the forefront of innovation. Since the industrial revolution, the industry has long looked for ways that create the best efficiencies and allow companies to improve their output.

From robotics to Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet Of Things (IoT) or Big Data, automation has been widely adopted by the manufacturing sector to complement the human workforce, optimise production, and improve quality and safety.  

But when it comes to achieving end-to-end process automation, software automation can generate new benefits beyond improving organisations’ efficiency and productivity. It can also contribute to helping solve complex global challenges, such as climate change and sustainability.

By leveraging Automation for Good, organisations can enable their sustainability goals and track, monitor, and report on their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance.  

Automating ESG processes 

One of the most common ESG themes revolves around an organisation’s carbon footprint. Businesses want to understand what their emissions footprint is – not only directly as a result of their own activities, but across their wider supply chains as well.

In the manufacturing industry, businesses often need to source significant quantities of raw materials – after all, it’s an industry where typically 40-60 per cent of the value add is procured. As a result, 40-60 per cent of potential emissions sources are also procured, so it’s important to understand where these emissions come from at every step of the way.  

It’s only through the detailed ingestion, monitoring and reporting of sustainability data that this can be achieved. Tracking this data helps not only to account for carbon emissions throughout the supply chain, but can also help businesses taking decisions, adhere to standards and compliance as well as enabling auditing parties to verify emission information reported by companies and global supply chains.  

Creating time efficiencies 

Automation can be an absolute gamechanger for manufacturing companies when it comes to ESG. The process of monitoring, reporting, responding, and adapting based on relevant data is an extremely time-consuming and arduous task if done manually.

To take the example of one large chemical company that UiPath works with, its procurement department wanted to audit the carbon emissions associated with its suppliers to ensure it was making the most environmentally friendly decisions in its procurement processes.

Due to the complexity and costs involved in carrying out this analysis, it was only possible to carry out the analysis three to four times per year. This meant that the organisation could not get full and transparent view of its supply chain emissions. By having this data available on a daily basis, allows businesses to make decisions on real-time data.   

By using UiPath Business Automation Platform, the chemical company has now been able to automate this process end-to-end, and it now only takes a day from monitoring to adapting the business.

As a result, this means the company is now able to have up-to date information about its suppliers, when they’re for example renegotiating contracts. By being able to get these daily reports and recommendations, the organisation can confidently make the best procurement decisions, and to ensure it is meeting ESG targets to reduce its carbon footprint across the entire supply chain.  

Preparing for the future of work 

Manufacturing is an industry that’s been heavily impacted by the skills shortage. In fact, research found that 39 per cent of European manufacturing companies reported their production was limited by labour shortages. Companies know the work required is often repetitive – yet essential.

For example, looking at tracking environmental footprint, organisations often need to ensure they are complying with specific technical regulations. However, these regulations differ from country-to-country, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that can be applied – but reviewing these regulations is a mundane task which few people enjoy.  

Having tasks like this automated frees up employees to focus on more creative, value-add tasks, where their expertise can be used to enrich work while the often-time-consuming tasks are being looked after by a software robot.   

Another example of where automation can be applied is in a lab environment. One of the most vital tasks lab technicians must do is to observe cell cultivations. Typically, this is a job that is done over the course of several days. However, by introducing software robots to monitor the cultivations and track observations as needed, technicians can free up their time and focus on other critical tasks.

A major pharmaceutical company deployed software robots to monitor cell cultivations and has seen a 33 per cent increase in productivity once the process was fully automated, and there was a significant reduction in defects in cell quality.  

The benefits software automation technologies bring to the manufacturing industry are undeniable. Not only can it help galvanise an organisation’s ESG commitments and help them hit targets but being able to rely on automation to support the organisations’ efforts to tackle such societal challenges can instil a greater sense of purpose at work and improve employee engagement and belonging.  

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