- 9x automation pipeline. From 16 – 144 opportunities
- Automation CoE saved over 5 hours per week
- Employee satisfaction increased 50%.
Having led the way in manufacturing for half a century, LARS Group (LARS), specialising in home automation and lighting, is now trailblasing automation within its group of companies. Reacting to the fast-developing economy, macroeconomic factors, and striving to better serve its customers, LARS decided to explore innovative technologies to reduce operational costs and improve the overall efficiency of its business operations.
While in search of driving efficiency, LARS also wanted to provide employees with a fantastic workplace experience and involve them in the automation journey. To successfully execute its digital transformation goals, the company enlisted the help of SilkFlo.
The road to digital transformation
When LARS first set its sights on digital automation in April 2020, it endeavoured to reduce employee workload burden (incurred from monotonous or repetitive work) and free up employees to pursue higher-value tasks.
The initial PoC and rollout were handled by a specialised Robotic Process Automation (RPA) consultancy, SilkFlo. Processes were prioritized by analysing different departments to identify the tasks taking the longest to solve and through the consultation of LARS employees concerning which processes they most wanted to see changed.
As a result, a small, but organically driven pipeline emerged and the first robots were developed.
“Once these initial processes had been automated, the benefits had been realized and the success stories had been shared around the business, we saw that these tools could become the foundation of a wider digital transformation program”.Roland Szymanski, Head of Operations
After the initial PoCs, LARS understood that RPA and other intelligent automation tools could radically change their business processes. With their cross-functional use cases, the technology could help to improve many processes and also offered enormous potential for cost savings for various departments.
The challenge: building a successful automation pipeline and scaling-up operations enterprise-wide
LARS understood the need for a wider, more structured team, and a detailed automation playbook.
They established their own Automation Center of Excellence (CoE), a specialist team to standardise and scale automation across the organisation. The CoE of LARS now owns the entire digital transformation program. The project brought together a mix of talent, including Lean Six Sigma veterans, robotic process automation (RPA) experts, and subject matter experts.
“We were using a mix of platforms such as Microsoft Power Automate and UiPath, combined with the other tools in our ‘toolkit’. We managed and tracked everything using spreadsheets and templates. Project management, tracking and collaboration became more complex. Our CoE team were struggling to scale”.Roland Szymanski, Head of Operations
Automation Pain Points/Difficulties
Keeping employees engaged and building an automation pipeline
Working in manufacturing, the majority of employees were used to working with robots. However, for the more white-collar functions, it was still a new concept, and many were afraid of losing their jobs.
After the initial PoCs and successes, LARS were having a challenging time trying to evangelise digital automation. It took weeks to send out requests to retrieve automation ideas and pain points from employees. Replies to emails were minimal, and, even with templated spreadsheets and forms to fill in, uptake was slow. After many weeks, with up to 5 hours/week wasted on following up, only 16 processes were identified. The CoEs pipeline was meagre at best.
Using spreadsheets to manage an Intelligent automation pipeline can be limiting
Adding to the challenge of building an automation pipeline, managing it all using spreadsheets and templates was even more of a challenge as LARS looked to scale their automations. In most organisations, several people need access to the same data at once. Oftentimes, different users will make changes to spreadsheet data independently while working.
A survey found that over half of respondents spend extra time checking numbers when spreadsheet changes are made.
“I remember one instance, when asking for a progress report, I didn’t see anything for over 4 weeks. The lack of visibility into our program performance was frustrating”.Roland Szymanski, Head of Operations
Building a business case
One of the most important aspects of implementing technologies like RPA, Intelligent Document processing (IDP), chatbots, and others, is the creation of a strong business case. The RPA business case should include specific process-candidates for automation followed by all the necessary metrics (volumes, frequency, average manual handling time, peaks, current costs, exception, and rework rates, etc.).
It’s no surprise that with the poor automation pipeline that they had, the CoE of LARS struggled to create exciting business cases. Even so, creating them took time – 2 hours per business case. This was due to data being shared across different sources and the lack of a standardised way to build them.
“We were starting to struggle to justify the benefits of RPA, IDP and other automation tools as we weren’t able to create a solid business case which would get buy-in from management”, said the Head of IT at LARS.
Another drawback of using spreadsheets or vendor-specific solutions is that it can be difficult to pool the data generated into one central location. With LARS wanting to embark upon a citizen developer initiative in the future, they were worried about the security and governance risks that it entailed. Adding to this, the automation CoE, and even business users, wasted time trying to find the relevant documentation surrounding a specific idea or automated process. There lacked a ‘single source of truth’ for all the automations and opportunities across the organisation.
Why LARS chose SilkFlo
LARS realised that they needed a better way to manage their RPA CoE operations than just using spreadsheets and a mix of templates. LARS took their time to find an RPA CoE tool that included a level of vendor flexibility, data accuracy, RPA project management and ease-of-use that other tools could not provide.
“I looked at the different RPA CoE management tools out there, then I found SilkFlo. The founders, the product, and the roadmap were a great fit – not to mention the value”, Roland added.
Roland was the company’s biggest advocate for driving this change. He created a Teams channel, made demos, and asked all the important questions ahead of time. He also implemented multiple PoCs in his research for an Automation Lifecycle Manager that would be easy to use and integrate seamlessly into the existing infrastructure.
After the push from Roland, the decision was made to move over to SilkFlo as their core RPA CoE management tool. It took the team less than a week to make the entire transition and fully migrate their existing projects.
What exactly was it about SilkFlo that excited them?
SilkFlo has an inbuilt Idea Generator that enables all employees in the business to sign in, and contribute to the organisation’s digital transformation journey. By answering a few questions, employees can submit a task/process that they’d like automated for review, explore other ideas and live automations, while also liking and following those of their colleagues. This kind of engagement is not possible with spreadsheets and other tools.
Automation Pipeline management
By visualising project phases and milestones, from idea through to deployment, SilkFlo keeps your projects on track, while monitoring costs and business value. It’s like having your own automation command center.
Business case creation
Achieving the right balance between cost savings and implementation complexity determines the speed and scale of automation success. SilkFlo generates your business cases automatically, giving you the insights to get the buy-in needed from stakeholders, and tackle the best projects first, and
“The business case feature compares the cost savings of the estimated development time and the running costs. This delivers a solid ROI calculation and now serves as a basis for our decisions”.Roland Szymanski, Head of Operations
Central Automation repository
As more and more employees embark on the digital automation journey, it becomes even more important to maintain governance and security over all and any ‘guerilla automations’. Most of which take place without the knowledge of the CoE. A central repository with which to store and share internal, code-reviewed automations enables the CoE to scale automation across departments in a safe and controlled manner.
“SilkFlo allows us to tackle grow our automation pipeline from both the top-down and the bottom-up. This has allowed us to truely scale.”Roland Szymanski, Head of Operations
LARS Group grew their automation pipeline 9x in 4 weeks
Employee adoption was quicker than expected, and in just a few weeks, LARS Group’s automation pipeline grew from just 16 qualified opportunities, to over 144.
Not only that, but the time their RPA CoE spent in discovery meetings, reworking spreadsheets, and generating performance reports was reduced by over 5 hours per week.
“Employees felt more involved with the whole process. Combined with educational workshops and training, inviting them to join the SilkFlo platform was easy and engagement increased. Over the span of 3-4 weeks, we had grown our pipeline of ideas 9 times. Not only that, but our RPA CoE spent less time in discovery meetings and reporting, and more time actually automating”, Said Roland.
LARS continues its journey to intelligent automation
Looking back over the RPA and IDP work done to date, it’s clear that having a robust RPA management system in place has been crucial to the program’s success.
“LARS Group is now continuously deploying new RPA and low-code automations in sprints. We keep track of a process backlog using SilkFlo. We first identify processes suitable for RPA or IDP, and then our team organizes process deep dive sessions using the Idea Assessment tool. This, combined with the Cost-Benefit feature allows us to estimate ROI and plan each project. The Workshop section gives us an agile workflow to take an idea and bring it into fruition. We can now develop and deploy a new automation in around 4 weeks”.Roland Szymanski, Head of Operations
Yet, time and money saved through automation are just one side of the story. Roland finishes, “Our employees have been central to this project from the very first bot. Since using SilkFlo and involving them more in the journey, we have seen the employee satisfaction score for our automated processes (tracked in SilkFlo) increase by 50 % on average, proving that our efforts are having a truly positive effect.”