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Leveraging RPA in the Utility domain.

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YASHASWI SHARMA's picture
Software Developer Tekgeminus

Hi, I work as a Software developer in the Utility Domain. I am experienced in CC&B, C2M, MDM, and OUAF.

  • Member since 2022
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  • Jan 23, 2023
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Leveraging RPA in the Utility domain.

  • Gartner Inc, a leading technological research and consulting firm, reported 90% of the large corporations in Utility domain in the States will adopt RPA by 2022-2023. The report suggests that the use of RPA will magnify in the nearing years and especially after pandemic because it reduces dependency on humans.

There is nothing denying the fact that our dependency on energy, gas, water and waste management is at its peak. Energy and Utility Industry is going through a phase of unprecedented changes and the need for a game changer is urgent and undeniable. In such a scenario, RPA can serve as the exaggeration that this industry, very clearly, needs.

 

What is RPA?

RPA or Robotic Process Automation is a form of business process automation technology based on Artificial Intelligence or on software bots. RPA mimics back-office tasks of human workers, such as extracting data, filling in forms, moving files, et cetera.

Keeping in mind the colossal amounts of transactions happening over Utility domain that are presently being handled by humans, it is not difficult to understand that the scope of error will decrease significantly if these transactions were to be handled by RPA. The processes like Invoicing, Meter reading, Data analysis and Managing outages demand top-notch efficiency and RPA delivers just that.

We shall discuss these processes profoundly later but for now RPA should at least start seeming like a viable option to upgrade Utility industry.

How RPA works in utility domain?

According to Forrester, RPA software tools must include the following core capabilities:

  1. Low-code capabilities to build automation scripts
  2. Integration with enterprise applications
  3. Orchestration and administration including configuration, monitoring and security.

The automation technologies such as RPA have ability to access information and data through legacy systems. Now, while back-end connections to database and enterprise web-services can help to automate processes, RPA’s ability to quickly integrate with front-end integrations reduces unnecessary technical debts and complications while serving the purpose of increasing efficiency.

Why involving RPA in Utility is beneficial?

  • Less Programming.

Drag and drop features in user interface make it easier for the system to be used by non-technical staff.

  • Rapid Cost Savings.

The high value employees can be assigned high value tasks and other priority routines because RPA takes care of the low value tasks. This results in significant increase in ROI.

  • Better Accuracy and Compliance.

The simple fact that RPA reduces the scope of human error results in very highly accurate systems that saves both the service provider and customers from unnecessary hassles.

  • No need to change the fundamental System.

RPA can be implemented along with your existing systems to suit your business process. The underlying systems are not disrupted as the bots work on the presentation layer.

Applications of RPA in Utility.

As discussed earlier in this article, RPA can come handy in a lot of ways when it comes to Energy and Utility Sector. From automating forms and processing asset related data to performing tasks at scale and checking for invoices and AP anomalies, Robotic Process Automation is starting to gain momentum within Utilities.

When we deploy logic to RPA and let them have the ability to learn and improve on how the tasks are being performed traditionally, we get a Utility system that is more efficient and robust. The idea is simple, we are trying to cut down manual labor on tasks that are low value, repetitive and high volume and redirect or channelize human power to tasks that are of higher importance like decision making and driving performance in the organization.

In a real-life example, a large American electricity and natural gas company wanted more efficient back-office operations. Past optimization and cost saving projects did their part, but the results were far from favorable.  RPA capability enabled them to create measurable financial impacts, achieve organizational goals and increased ROI. A simple task like anomaly checking was now being done by a bot and the volume of data that it ran accurately is humongous.  RPA also enabled significant operational improvements, and this helped them come up with a more coherent strategy to provide utility services.

Below is a list of some areas where RPA can prove to be an absolute decisive factor.

  • Invoicing and Accounts Processing:

Robotic Process Automation can streamline data entry, keeping track of payment amounts, deadlines, compliances and resolving discrepancies in balance sheets.

  • Data Analysis:

To ensure smooth customer service and maintaining internal finances a company depends heavily on its capability to analyze data. The amount of data that Utility organizations receive on daily basis is overwhelming.

Deploying RPA bots to make information out of this data can help an industry understand its customers better and further channelize their resources in the areas that result in scalable financial benefits.

  • Streamlining Meter Reading:

The vast customer base of Utility domain also translates into a higher scope of human error when it comes to validating meter readings of every household. Corrupt meter readings directly means that the bills hence generated will be wrong and that can invite hassles, sometimes even legal.

RPA validates the reading and push it ahead for bill generation only if it’s correct. If there seems to be an error in the reading, RPA flags that reading for human review. In such high-volume and error-prone transactional tasks, Robotic Process Automation increases the accuracy and decreases the dependency on employees.

  • Outages and System Failure:

Failure to manage outages invites hefty fines and even put life and property at risk. Deploying RPA to continuously monitor the systems and flag any discrepancies at the earliest possible, cuts down the risks of system failure and outages efficiently. RPA and be integrated with pre-existing outage management system to predict outages and outage locations. With better data reporting and human-error eliminated, the restorations can be done swiftly.

When organizations focus on increasing productivity, structural changes are inevitable in the way people view jobs. Contrary to the notion that RPA might takeover the industry replacing humans, the reality is that machines and humans can work alongside resulting in a more efficient organizational environment. In such a scenario, humans will be doing more decisive and strategic tasks while machines enable them to do that more efficiently.

The evolving regulatory compliances and frameworks, rising customer base and expectations and exponential growth in infrastructure and maintenance costs, Utility Industry is feeling the heat to become more dynamic, efficient and data driven. The low value processes such as inspection and mundane tasks like re-keying data into another system that are, presently, being done by high value employees can be automated using RPA. This will result in heightened productivity of Utility Industry and better customer service. The growth in automation is inevitable and it’s happening now, it’s only a matter of time it integrates with utilities.

 

Yashaswi Sharma

Technology Associate at TekGeminus.

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Thank YASHASWI for the Post!
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