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May 08, 2019Technology & Innovation

Prepare for Robotic Process Automation With Lean Six Sigma

By: Jessica Edwards
Prepare for Robotic Process Automation With Lean Six Sigma

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is quickly becoming a tool that many successful organizations are adding to their toolbox because of its potential for helping them operate more efficiently, and for its potential to give employees more time to focus on creative, strategic work.

But organizations have to be careful about making decisions too quickly. As we wrote recently, there are a number of questions to ask before deploying any RPA solutions. Among them is how you might be able to improve on existing processes.

To help you determine that, you should look at your processes from a Lean Six Sigma point-of-view.

What Is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma (L6S) is a process improvement methodology that strives to make processes more effective and efficient by reducing variation and removing unneeded steps. L6S calls this "waste" and categorizes it into eight types:

  • Defects – Failed processes, or resulting rework
  • Over-production – When more is produced than customers will purchase
  • Waiting – Time spent waiting on someone or something else before you can move to the next process step
  • Non-utilized talent – When you don’t have the right people in the right positions
  • Transportation – The time spent getting the product to the customer
  • Inventory – Product waiting to be sold
  • Motion – Inefficient shop floor layouts, processes which require physical hand-off
  • Extra-processing – Also known as “scope creep”

Step One

To determine how RPA may be able to help you improve existing processes, your first step is to examine those processes for any of these eight types of waste. One way to do this is with a process map.

A process map will give you a much clearer understanding of where your real hurdles lie and how automation may help you eliminate steps that are repetitive or simply unnecessary. You may also notice variations in how each person performs a given process.

Step Two

Once you've whittled your process down to the fewest number of repeatable steps and have established a plan for eliminating variation, you can perform a cost-benefit analysis. Start by asking these essential questions:

  • How much time do your processes currently take?
  • How many team members does it take to perform them?
  • How many times per day/week/month are these processes performed?
  • What is the average hourly rate of those employees using their time on these processes?

Answering these questions will give you your cost. Then you’ll have an idea of whether or not the cost and effort of automation will be worth your time and provide an ROI.

Step Three

Finally, make sure to fully document any process you want to automate, including the steps to perform the process (with screenshots), the pre-requisites needed, the assumptions, the systems used and what the input/output will be. Once you have all these items documented, the team developing the process automation will be fully equipped to provide an optimum product.

Gain the Insights You Need to Improve Your Business

For any organization considering RPA, the right preparations have to be made first. And when it comes to evaluating specific processes, L6S can be a real asset for gaining the insights you need. L6S focuses on reducing waste and variability in your processes so you can fully leverage RPA to free your existing workforce from tedious, repeatable processes. When used in tandem, L6S and RPA will help you continuously improve your business and prepare your employees for the future of work.