RPA helps professionalize that contract lifecycle management process: every month, the robot checks the contracts in SAP two months prior to the validity due date, or at a random moment chosen by the purchaser. It then runs a set of reports that list vendor and contract details (e.g. material quantities, contract compliance, quality details, unplanned costs, delivery times, number of complaints, etc.) and compiles all that data into one predefined Excel spreadsheet. Once the bot is ready to upload the data into the e-sourcing solution, it informs the buyer.
Here’s when the expertise of the buyers comes in: they can study the information, adapt it where needed and give approval to the robot to submit a tender. The robot will then create an event – a.k.a., launch a tender – in the e-sourcing platform and set up the participating vendors as per instruction of the buyer. The buyer then steps in to validate and select the internal stakeholders and then sends an invite to all the participants.
Bert and Robrecht are confident that RPA will help Bekaert professionalize the procurement process. At a later phase, delaware and Bekaert may implement machine learning approaches for supplier shortlist evaluation. Moreover, purchasing is not the only administrative process with repetitive and routine tasks ready for automation; there is plenty of potential in sales and finance as well.
“The beauty of RPA is the ability to implement change gradually. It can be introduced to automate individual tasks and then build up as people become familiar with the process.”