Automation solved two areas in one go for Pražská plynárenská. The company saves money and specialist staff can now deal exclusively with those cases that really need it.
Clients of the major supplier of gas and related services, Pražská plynárenská, take readings from gas or electricity meters. The customer has several options for handing over output data, or so-called self-readings. They can use the electronic form in the online interface of the client zone, or enter the data in a spreadsheet file and send it by e-mail. Alternatively, clients can submit data in person via the call centre.
The customer service centre processes data from clients into an output report. It also acts as a point of contact to resolve any discrepancies. Staff in this department see fluctuations in their workload throughout the year; work which is largely routine in nature.
Robotisation has not just improved one process, but a whole complex of activities.
The output report from self-readings must be prepared by no later than the 5th day of the month. As it is necessary to work with data for the whole previous month, five days are set aside for processing these reports. The work requires short-term, but regular increases in human resources. The company must also expect another heavy workload at the beginning of the year, when the volume of work increases by up to 66% compared to other months.
At the same time, overworked employees and a high volume of repetitive activities can also lead to human error.
However, an automated robot could process the data in a single day. This would address the temporary need for additional human resources. Specialists from the Customer Service Centre would be able to devote themselves to specialist work only. Once routine activities are processed by the robot, only more complex cases requiring an individual approach would be handed over to them. Instead of being overloaded with monotonous activities, specialists could focus on cases that require more in-depth investigation and checks of whether readings were taken correctly.
Apart from dealing with short-term overload, potential errors and routine activities, shortening the deadline for the distribution of output reports to clients would also help. Simplification and shorter times through the conventional development of cooperating systems was not appropriate here because it would have been very costly in terms of time and money.
Robotic process automation also managed to handle the diverse nature of large volumes of input data.
In order to streamline processes, we proposed the automation of a large part of the client’s administrative operations for processing self-readings through software robotisation. We chose UltimateRPA (RPA = Robotic Process Automation) as the most suitable tool.
The robot groups submitted self-readings from two sources - the email client and SAP inbox. It processes them through the selection of (un)structured data, which it flawlessly assigns to the correct database or to the correct distributor. The challenge consisted of setting up a robot that could work with different data formats (emails with attachments and a completed standard online form) and could process thousands of emails with individual self-readings in a short period of time.
If you are interested in the specific functions used, we can tell you that the robot works with a diverse range of information. It monitors whether the attached file contains a table. It then validates whether this is a table with self-readings and evaluates this information (e.g. information about a gas meter or EAN code). The robot works in such a way that it can process as many types of self-readings as possible.
The output product is not just data processing. The robot can take the place of a Customer Service Centre employee throughout the whole process. It compiles a list of extracted self-readings and sends this to the client to check. Human involvement is not needed at any time. Specialists can focus on the more demanding work of resolving any irregularities. The robot can also help with self-readings that contain an error. It will alert a customer service employee when a discrepancy is detected and indicate what needs to be corrected.
Do you feel it can’t be that simple? Actually, it’s even better. UltimateRPA is a simple tool that you can deploy on a regular workstation (usually a laptop). Companies usually run it directly on a physical or virtual server. It is not limited by the specifics of controlling various target applications. Think of it as a specialist employee, who precisely follows a set procedure. But it is much faster, does not need breaks and does not make mistakes.
Things turned out great! Routine activities have been fully taken over by the robot. Specialists at the Customer Service Centre can now devote themselves to more specialised activity in processing self-readings that require an individual approach and the human factor.
The level of automation has reached 66%. In practice, this means that two-thirds of all administrative operations are processed by the robot without the need for human involvement.
Pražská plynárenská is very happy with the proposed solution. Robotic process automation provided the company with a solution for regular short-term increases in work volume and resolved the issue of potential human error.
Automation has improved processing self-readings, saved costs and helped improve the quality of provided services.
An internal team consisting of members with expertise in business, process modelling and information systems (in particular SAP) worked on the project. We have a specialist team of RPA developers with 13 years of experience and hundreds of projects under their belts at StringData.
The whole project took 12 weeks, i.e. 3 months. We began the project before Christmas, at the beginning of December 2019. A pilot version was ready in February and was deployed for a period of one month. In March, the pilot version went into standard operation.
“Repeated surges in the need for human resources, short data processing deadlines and a certain risk of error led us to consider the possibility of automating the processing of client self-readings. Pražská plynárenská supports the use of smart technologies, if their implementation is beneficial. It was not possible to modify the SAP system in which self-readings are processed until now.
Specialists from StringData came up with a proposal for the use of software robotisation. Cooperation was professional and efficient. We had high expectations after pilot operation. The UltimateRPA tool made it possible to automate two-thirds of the necessary activities. It has helped significantly with the need for a temporary increase in human resources and has also shortened delivery times of reports for clients.”