The Potential of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic process automation (RPA) isn’t new, but improvements in the technology and shrinking costs have made it more accessible than ever. By taking over repetitive, mundane, time-consuming tasks, RPA can reduce costs, increase efficiency and productivity, minimize errors, and free up employees to focus on higher value activities. The technology holds promise for construction companies, which often face razor thin margins and a shortage of skilled labor.

What is it?

The term may conjure images of androids roaming the job site, but RPA simply refers to software tools that automate repetitive, rule-based human tasks. Examples include:

Creating invoices. Properly designed RPA solutions can compile necessary billing data (from multiple systems, if necessary) and create accurate invoices in a matter of minutes.

Generating estimates. RPA systems can quickly generate preliminary numbers based on data collected from customers or prospective customers.

Managing documents. Manual systems are prone to human error, and documents are easily lost. RPA can automatically route scanned documents to the appropriate recipients and file them in a centralized, accessible repository.

Processing vendor invoices. RPA systems can collect data from invoices, enter it into a company’s accounting system, and generate an email confirming receipt and requesting additional information if needed.

Monitoring performance. RPA can be used to generate and analyze work-in-progress reports to ensure that jobs are progressing profitably. It’s also able to provide an early warning of cost overruns and other potential problems.

Responding to customer or prospect inquiries. RPA systems can respond to basic requests received via a business’s general email address or website. In the case of more complex requests, the system is capable of forwarding the inquiry to the appropriate person.

Performing HR tasks. RPA can be used to automate a variety of tasks involved in recruiting, onboarding, payroll, and other labor- and document-intensive HR processes.

Why consider it?

As mentioned, these systems offer a variety of potential benefits for contractors. It reduces labor costs and virtually eliminates human error in many forms of documentation. Plus, because “bots” can perform tasks much faster than people, and can work 24 hours a day without breaks, RPA reduces the time it takes to complete applicable tasks.

Although there’s a chance that this technology will eliminate certain jobs, overall it may help retain employees by taking over dull, repetitive tasks; reducing employee burnout; and freeing staff members to focus on more skilled, creative and fulfilling activities.

Okay, how much?

As is the case with any technology, there are considerable costs associated with buying, implementing and maintaining the appropriate type(s) of RPA software. If interested, approach the idea cautiously and explore the details carefully.

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