E. & J. Gallo, a U.S.-based winery and distributor, realized it needed a faster and more reliable way to transfer data to its Enterprise Resourcing Planning system. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was the most obvious tool for the job. That was just the beginning, though, and the company soon found new RPA applications in every corner of the organization.
Data management requirements spark RPA demand
New technology investments are supposed to make your life easier, but sometimes they introduce new challenges you never had to worry about before. Massive platforms like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are a great example, since they can leave big gaps in functionality after they’re up and running. U.S.-based wine distributor E. & J. Gallo ran into this very same problem. Its ERP solution provided more visibility and synchronization than ever before, but it came at the cost of increased data management requirements. The platform is only as good as the data supporting it, and it takes a lot of time and energy to continually feed large ERP systems with the information they need. On top of that, there’s always the risk that someone will put in the wrong data, which can lead to department heads and team leaders making decisions based on faulty information.
Looking to streamline data entry and management tasks while also ensuring the complete accuracy of those activities, E. & J. Gallo decided to test the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) waters. That proof of concept soon led to even more RPA projects, applying RPA to everything from warehouse management to channel marketing processes.
We’re using RPA to help enter master data faster. We’re doing two things: data quality checks as well as have RPA handle input of new product versions into SAP. If you don’t RPA that, it takes an army to enter a new version.
Information Technology Vice President, E. & J. Gallo
Letting key employees focus on what they do best
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: The RPA project got underway focusing on finance-related processes. Finance and accounting are some of the most natural starting points for any RPA journey due to the sheer number of repeatable processes that could be easily automated. For RPA leaders like Robert Barrios, E. & J. Gallo’s VP of IT, the first order of business was to create a proof of concept to showcase RPA and get organizational buy-in.
“We didn’t want to fall into the trap of going after the big fish right away,” said Barrios. “Sometimes a process isn’t ready to be automated because it’s too complex.”
Once it had that compelling proof of concept with finance automation, the team quickly expanded RPA into other corners of the business, using software robots to pay compensation to distribution partners and transfer data from Excel spreadsheets to the company’s SAP system.
In one especially compelling example, E. & J. Gallo deployed RPA to automate purchasing processes between its suppliers in the run-up to a new product launch. This was no ordinary product launch, it was a new French Rosé developed by recording artist, Post Malone. With Gallo being the exclusive distributor for Maison No. 9, the project was high profile and the product launch was running under an aggressive schedule. By automating these purchase processes for Maison No. 9, the company was able to launch the brand on time without the need for adding temporary headcount.
While IT is heavily involved in the RPA process, it is by no means solely responsible for implementation. From the beginning, IT teams and business leaders have worked together to identify new applications for RPA and deliver the best results for the organization.
“It’s all about that partnership with the business,” Barrios said. “I’ve partnered with the CFO, and he’s assigned one of his VPs to work with me as an evangelist for the product across the company.”
We want employees to contribute their work hours to value. We’ve used RPA to take the mundane work out of their day so they can help on more advanced projects.
Information Technology Vice President, E. & J. Gallo
E. & J. Gallo embraces UiPath’s ‘A Robot for Every Person’ mindset
Although E. & J. Gallo’s RPA project has only been underway since January 2020, it’s already established a standard process for identifying new automation opportunities. The RPA team takes a “first ready, first serve” approach, meaning anyone who wants to request an automation needs to have a process outline, process definition and value statement. There’s no wasted effort because the team vets every candidate to check that it will deliver tangible results. That mindset has also reduced potential risk since team members are careful to only automate stable tasks that are not in flux.
“That approach worked really well, and it created a lot of internal competition for our team’s attention,” Barrios noted. “As soon as we got the first bot up, people saw the value in it, and we had a lot of managers sending in requests for their own automations.”
E. & J. Gallo has already made major strides getting more employees involved in the RPA process, as well. From the outset, the RPA team wanted every department and business unit to be represented and went about recruiting citizen developers from Sales, HR, Finance and Marketing, in addition to tech-focused departments. All told, 12 business units have a citizen developer on staff advocating for their interests.
Team leaders expect citizen development to continue to be a focal point of its RPA journey going forward. The company plans to significantly expand its Center of Excellence — tripling its size — over the coming months. In addition to great wine, E. & J. Gallo serves up a perfect example of how to get an RPA project off the ground and then nurture it by steadily building up support from across the organization.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 12Citizen developers producing new RPA robots for different departments
- 10,000 Hours saved since January 2020
- 500,000Dollars saved in RPA-driven cost avoidance