CLIENT: Schneider Electric Region: EMEA Industry: Manufacturing

Robotic Process Automation working for Schneider Electric's Global Supply Chain

To make its Supply Chain more efficient, the Group chose RPA with the aim of eliminating time-consuming tasks with no added value, for the benefit of its employees.

And, in the midst of a health crisis, faced with the need to speed up flows between the European Distribution Centre and remote sites not connected to their IT system, it tested its responsiveness by using RPA once more.

Feedback from Lucas Audonnet Lean Digital Project Manager and Laurent Chantoiseau Lean Master Global Supply Chain Europe:

“The efficiency of the Supply Chain is at the heart of our business. Since 2015 Schneider Electric has been engaged in a digital transformation program which reached a turning point in 2017 when the TSC 4.0 strategy (Tailored Sustainable Connected Supply Chain) was implemented. In this context, our mission is to use digitalisation to improve performance at the plants and distribution centers in Europe. Our culture of lean management and the level of process standardisation are well suited to RPA which is one of the ways of improving our client solutions, both internally and externally. For two years now, we have been initiating RPA projects, the first of which was implemented last December”.

Lucas AudonnetLean Digital Project Manager

Refocusing on core activities

Eliminating tasks with no added value to enable employees to refocus on their core activities is what drove the Schneider Electric initiative:

“One of the elements of our corporate culture is the central role of humans. Empowering employees, making them self-sufficient and refocusing them on core activities is the driving force behind our action geared towards customer satisfaction”.

Laurent ChantoiseauLean Master Global Supply Chain Europe

Eliminating repetitive, time-consuming tasks

One of Schneider Electric's industrial sites manufactures electrical switchboards for apartment buildings as well as business premises and industrial facilities. These switchboards are factory assembled and pre-wired. When their manufacturing specifications are received, these are printed, along with the labels required to identify electrical circuits and circuit breakers. The work to prepare documents for operators, who are responsible for installing electrical switchboards at client premises, is tedious. Introducing a robot capable of opening the documents and printing them enabled two employees, who previously did this job, to free up time to assist teams.

“UiPath spent 2½ days developing this project with an outcome which was welcomed by employees, who were relieved of a repetitive, time-consuming task. It was particularly suited to automation: the robot took over to carry out a task with no added value, for the benefit of the employees”.

Lucas AudonnetLean Digital Project Manager

Speeding up flows in the midst of a health crisis

In the context of the COVID-19 health crisis, a new supply chain was put in place to supply Schneider Electric’s different sites in Europe with personal protective equipment from an international distribution centre. The fact that these sites were not connected (via their ERP) to one of the international distribution centres, meant that one person was devoted to order processing, at a challenging time. Automating this task with a robot and setting up a generic mailbox meant that the order processing time was reduced from 4 hours to 2 minutes. In addition, if an error occurs when the order is placed, this is flagged up very quickly.

“On the one hand this experience showed that RPA is not necessarily a lengthy, complex process, and on the other, in stressful situations requiring a quick response, it provides an effective solution. We also learnt that it is possible to adopt a step-by-step approach when robotising tasks, provided they are anticipated and familiar. For example, starting with a single flow (in France in this instance) automation can be extended to several flows (in Europe); the same goes for orders which can be increased from one product to several products”.

Laurent ChantoiseauLean Master Global Supply Chain Europe

“RPA technology is not new in Europe. Experiments carried out in this field were inconclusive and were not a priority in deploying the Smart Supply Chain. We have developed, implemented and stabilised the priority technologies for the Smart Supply Chain and now we can focus on RPA projects. Our colleagues in China, by deploying certain RPA solutions with positive feedback, enabled us to go down this route in Europe, with UiPath“.

Lucas AudonnetLean Digital Project Manager

Standardising processes upstream and providing hypercare downstream: the keys to success

While standardising processes upstream is crucial, downstream, support after implementing a RPA project is also a key stage. These different phases lead to the emergence of a proven methodology.

“The problem lies in defining the process: being able to explain it, so it can be understood. Despite existing standards, it entails going into more detail. While maintaining a high degree of accuracy in the logical process, no detail should be overlooked because it could reveal complexities. Everyone knows that the devil is in the detail!“

Laurent ChantoiseauLean Master Global Supply Chain Europe

“Sometimes, some software even needs to be changed so the RPA operates correctly. But apart from these prerequisites, efficiency is guaranteed! Furthermore, in the context of our RPA projects, we have ensured close monitoring after Go-live, including any debugging and dealing quickly with changes to be made.“

Lucas AudonnetLean Digital Project Manager

Helping to improve team skills

The new digitalisation tools, including RPA, help to increase team skills which are assessed by Schneider Electric’s Global Chain Academy; this provides employees with all the tools for learning, based on material supplied by UiPath. This initiative is naturally part of a wider training programme.

“We are now seeking economies of scale in the deployment of RPA and for this we rely on our Centre of Excellence in India. Once we have explored all the sources of standardisation in our plants and distribution centres, we will look at deploying RPA suitable for each employee for specific tasks.”

Lucas AudonnetLean Digital Project Manager

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