Business Environment

The Possibility of RPA Business in Indonesia【Implemented by IT Companies, Not Users】


Impressions of the RPA tool UiPath

Some of the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) currently used by Japanese IT companies in Jakarta include UiPath, Winactor and Kofax Kapow.
It is only an introduction as an automated tool for routine tasks, and the introduction of robotics, where AI (Artificial Intelligence) performs machine learning and makes decisions autonomously to perform specific processes using RPA, is still a long way off.

I tried to automate the procedure of searching for information on the web using the data loaded from Excel as a key and writing the results to Excel with the Community version of UiPath, which is the free version of UiPath. The task of representing the algorithms of the automated processes in activities was never easy, and it was a hurdle for a trained, end-user-driven implementation in Indonesia, where there is no information systems department.

    1. RPA tools are macros that record routine tasks while integrating with external applications such as Excel, email software, and web browsers.
        • You can use UiPath Studio's "Recording" to do the same work that you often do with Excel macros, recording macros and cutting and pasting the automatically generated VBA source to create a program.
    2. It is unlikely that end users in the field will be able to handle RPA simply because of the training they receive.
    3. OCR (Optical Character Recognition/Reader) linkage to digitize paper analog information is likely to be a heavy project in Indonesia.
    4. The effectiveness of implementation should be judged comprehensively on three indicators: productivity improvement, reduction of poka-misses, and reduction of labor costs, and do not seek too much cost-effectiveness in the short term.
    5. It seems better to systematize the business of creating forms than to use RPA.
    6. The routine tasks that are expected to have an effect on implementation in Indonesia are those where the original data is digitalized, high volume and easy to standardize. For example...
        • Registering the attendance data stored in Access from fingerprints to the Payroll system.
        • Registering the production results of the piece-rate information obtained from the sequencer to the production management system.
        • Register orders received from customers in Excel or CSV format to the business system.
        • Register payroll data in Excel at the end of the month as a remittance list in the Internet banking system.

We also reconfirmed that the reason why RPA, which only automates routine tasks with the rule engine, feels uncomfortable about advocating a robot (digital laborer) is because it is not able to perform validation for the values and formats of the original data, the Excel file.

Productivity initiatives should start with paperlessness

While there are tools available to automate these tasks, there is no way to guarantee the correctness of the original data.

  1. Converting analog media (paper) to digital media ⇒ OCR or multifunctional machine (scanner)
  2. Referencing and processing in Excel ⇒ Processing with expressions and macros
  3. Input from Excel to business systems ⇒ Automated with Dataloader (Oracle) and RPA
  4. Data migration across systems ⇒ Automated with RPA

When an order PO received by fax from a customer is converted to PDF by scanning the image with a multifunction device and converted to Excel using a PDF file conversion tool (e.g. Small PDF), it is inevitable that misinterpretations such as "0" and "O" or "8" and "B" will occur, and therefore Checking and modifying the data converted to Excel is required.

Since RPA tools require that the original data values are correct and stored in the correct format to work correctly, digital information obtained from paper, which is an analog medium in OCR, needs to be manually checked for correctness.

In order to analyze the trends of "0" and "O" in the accumulation of order PO data from past customers and make the right choice autonomously, AI with a machine learning function is necessary, and rather than introducing AI for this purpose, paperlessness is more costly and more essential to improve the business.

The reason why manual input to paper formats and transcription to Excel have not disappeared in the field after decades of paperless work is that input to terminals such as tablets is not as easy to use as manual input to paper formats with a ball-point pen.

I think it is more natural to use tools such as i-Reporter (Sim-Tops), which converts input forms created in Excel to forms on the terminal and links the data, to achieve paperless work, and then use RPA to automate the routine tasks that are omitted from the implementation of the business system. I think.

The difference between RPA tool development and programming

By the way, the system company I joined a long time ago, where I graduated from, made their employees take the information processing exam.
That's because it was necessary to keep a certain number of employees who had passed the certification in order for the company to be registered as a System Integrator Certified Company by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

At that time, I didn't like the idea of being forced to study for the exam until I entered the workforce, but the study of systems engineering, which was part of the subject area of the Information Processing Examination, eventually became the foundation for me to continue working in IT.

  • Programming language code for system development consists of four components: variables, values (literals), expressions, and control statements, and there are three basic types of control statements: sequential processing, branching (if, select, etc.), and repetitive processing (for, while, etc.). The algorithm is created by doing.

The first site I was assigned to was the department that developed the system for the overseas branch of a bank, where I used RPG language and CL job control language on IBM's AS/400, and the next was the department that developed the banking system for the domestic branch, where I used PL/1 language and JCL job control language on IBM's general-purpose machines, and after I came to Indonesia, I used VB6. The language used changed with each job, such as client-server system development, ASP, PHP, and web system development with .NET C#.

Different languages have different syntax manners, and the SQL statements written in the code vary slightly depending on the database to which they are connected, but they are all based on this algorithm.


UiPath Studio development screen. On the left is a list of activities.

If you want to implement cooperation with an external application in your development program, you can get a project object (application object) through the COM interface opened by the external application, and issue a method to the target object through the class hierarchy to make the operation There is a coding task to execute, but if you use RPA tools, you can implement algorithms by placing chunks of processes (system behavior) called "activities" in a flowchart.

Since RPA requires the tools to remember all the business requirements, it is not much different from normal system development in that it is necessary to identify the requirements and prepare the business flow, and the IT company's job is to train the users how to use the RPA tools.

RPA Business for Indonesian IT Companies

One of the main reasons for using RPA tools to automate is that RPA is cheaper than system development and can start small, but this is based on the premise that end users can build automated processes, and this is only possible in Japan, where there is an information system.

Even though program coding is not necessary to use RPA tools, understanding of algorithms such as conditions and repetition is essential, and I think it would be difficult for end users of Japanese companies in Indonesia to learn RPA in the scope of their normal business and automate their operations autonomously.

This is a matter of organizational theory of Japanese companies, but as long as Indonesia and other overseas bases are positioned as production and sales bases of the Japanese headquarters, even if there is not much difference in the quality of white-collar workers, if the organization does not have a department specializing in information systems, the introduction of RPA tools will be led by IT companies. It is unavoidable.

In this case, the cost advantage of RPA over system development is lost because of the man-hours required to define requirements, create prototypes using RPA, repeat reviews, and conduct training, just as in normal system development.

The work of standardizing business processes by compiling requirements depends more on internal and external coordination on the customer's side than on the system, and if there are disincentive factors such as not being able to respond immediately to instructions from Japanese personnel on the customer's side, or the head of the department on the site is not cooperating with the system implementation, IT companies may not be able to implement the system on their own. The same problem arises with system development: it gets stuck.

It's sad to see people stumble in the process of compiling requirements when putting an automation tool into the back office and conclude that it's too early for Indonesia, so the reality is that you have to choose your industry and company. I like the Mushawala spirit, but it's hard for both of us when our plans to build a Corolla turn into a mysterious Mercedes Benz without us knowing it.

Since RPA development tools such as UiPath Studio are tools that can be easily learned by program developers, Indonesian IT companies should encourage existing developers to learn RPA technology on a long-term basis and assign them on a project basis, rather than training and securing dedicated RPA personnel. I think it's a good idea.

When introducing RPA in Japan, it seems that training for information systems is the main focus, but in the introduction of RPA to Japanese companies in Indonesia, implementation will be the same as for normal business systems, and maintenance to deal with changes in processing procedures after introduction and changes in definitions due to changes in the specifications of external applications. Business is going to be important.

As Indonesia's minimum wage (Upah Minimum Kota/Kabupaten (UMK) rises every year and the Japanese labor market salary level continues to fall, and as the level of indirect labor costs in both countries gets closer, it is important to automate the massive data entry process that involves integration between applications, which is difficult to implement in mission-critical systems. It's easier to deliver the benefits of RPA implementation - increased productivity and reduced errors.