Home Bots & Business Odile Schmutz (Randstad): “RPA is the revolution of 2020”

Odile Schmutz (Randstad): “RPA is the revolution of 2020”

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The coronavirus crisis has given a major boost to the use of robot-assisted process automation (RPA) in Randstad France, CFO Odile Schmutz pointed out recently during a digital festival organized by specialist UiPath.

The temporary agency sector in France was hit hard by the coronavirus crisis in March. Odile Schmutz: “We registered a drop in turnover of about seventy percent in just one week. It was extremely intense. Everyone had to telework, the interim workers were sent home by our clients and the companies closed down. Together with the government, we had to come up with a technical solution for this partial unemployment. Without RPA, and a solid task force, we honestly would not have made it.”

Eight hundred different branches

The CFO instructed her team to use RPA to deal with this partial unemployment for her employees. “Some 80,000 flex workers are employed through Randstad France every week along with 4,000 permanent employees. So you can imagine how often we have to carry out the same process every day. On approximately 800 different sites. I did a quick calculation, in a couple of minutes, and indicated that we should probably hire 50 people to do the automation. The added value of my team is based on its intelligence, not on repeating the same tasks every day.”

Boost for the RPA programme

Schmutz put several robots to work to support her employees round the clock, 7 days a week. “They are still in operation because we have another lockdown. They support us in our work. Of course, they also provide a great deal of safety and security. They deliver on time and, naturally, do not get sick from the coronavirus. Without the robots, I do not know how we would have managed to get through this period. They provided a great boost for the RPA programme in my team.”

Link with lean management

The CFO started small by implementing the automation programmes in Randstad. “I wanted to have a direct link to lean management. I am a big proponent of lean management and my whole team works that way. If you value stream mapping, you can see where the inconsistencies are, where you need to make corrections, and where the process is taking longer plus all the non-value adding tasks that you are doing on a daily basis. With this approach, it’s easy to say, ‘Can we ask a robot to do the task?’”

The revolution of 2020

Odile Schmutz asked her team to draw up a list of processes that could be automated. “I told them, ‘I’m quite old compared to most of you. When I discovered Microsoft Office, it was a revolution for me. This is your revolution. This is the revolution of 2020. And this little robot is going to be your very own digital assistant.’ So now I have a huge list of processes to automate. We definitely need to scale up. We will probably have to double or multiply by ten the number of processes that need to be automated each year. But we are still learning. We are moving forward and gaining confidence that we can use RPA everywhere. The employees are definitely fans.”

Are there any savings?

Schmutz measures the success of the automation programme in terms of the return on investment. “I do this by comparing the time you spend on analysing and developing the robots with the time you save. I also threw employee satisfaction into the equation. Optimizing the process of working with a robot will naturally reduce stress for employees. They know that the robot does not make mistakes and that is very valuable to them. They appreciate it when you can take away all the repetitive and tedious tasks with automation.”

“Before we decide whether to automate a process, we put it on a priority list first. The criteria we apply are: Is it a tedious repetitive process? Is it a time-consuming chore? Does it give satisfaction and reduce stress?”

From threat to cooperation

RPA has become an important component in Randstad France, with finance joining forces with IT. “Initially, IT saw automation as a sort of threat stemming from finance. It was a major obstacle. But now they see the added value and ask us, “Could you develop a robot to check on my work at night and provide me with feedback in the morning?” It is very interesting to see that the various departments, from marketing to HR, are now looking to cooperate with us.”

“All support functions in the company are keen on RPA. They see that the time we have saved thanks to the robots can improve the quality of service we provide to our flex workers, other employees and, of course, to the customers. I haven’t mentioned the customers, but they are central to our satisfaction rating, needless to say.”

Author: Martijn Slot

This article was originally published in Dutch on Executive Finance

If you want to gain more insights how CFO’s leverage automation to transform finance, watch the recording of the webinar held by UiPath and IMA Europe on January 27th


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