Robotic Process Automation

Rise of the machines: Uniper turn to Robotic Process Automation

PL Staff

The procurement leadership team at Uniper, an international energy business, has started to use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to improve the efficiency of their procurement operations.

In other words, they’ve enlisted a network of software bots to better enable their team of people, and free up time to focus on strategic goals.

Good ideas and smart people: A human-first approach

The digital strategy around this RPA was made possible by “good ideas and smart people”, according to Philip Höchstödter, VP Spot Buy/Operational Procurement. The team developed an innovative project strategy that focused on staff perception and empowerment.

The approach involved training staff so that they were aware of the opportunities that could be provided by RPA, and understood how the technology worked. Academics were also brought in to provide a more impartial perspective on RPA, so that any practitioner concerns were addressed.

RPA with a difference

The distinctive part of this approach was the focus on the practitioners; the people who would be working with the new technology the most. If they fully understood RPA and its potential impact, they’d then be in the best position to identify the right opportunities for automation and have an influence over the changes made. Academics were brought in to provide independent voices to help build this knowledge. By informing and empowering practitioners to suggest where they wanted this technology to be applied, the enthusiasm for RPA – a technology that often faces internal resistance – was increased.

The team now had a strong foundation from which a network of software bots could be launched, understood and fully embraced by the team.

Has it worked?

Yes. Since introducing the bots, processes are more efficient and the workplace experience at Uniper has vastly improved. It’s also reaffirmed the value of people and the importance of combining a new virtual workforce with existing staff. As Director of Procurement, Susanne Thöle says, “There will always be a need for a person in the process, people have the flexible skills you need.”

Next steps: Investing in digitalisation

As procurement looks to elevate its role and deliver on more strategic business goals, the function at Uniper continues to upskill employees and explore new technologies, prioritising how to best enable the team.

Thöle sums it up; “the most important pillar is our people.”

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