How Scania changes and accelerates business with robots
The client: Scania Polska
Tool: UiPath, OCR, Applica.ai
Scania Polska uses Robotic Process Automation tools to speed up administrative processes, improve their quality, and make better business decisions. Freeing people from routine and time-consuming activities opens up new opportunities for innovation and value creation.
About Scania Polska
Scania is a global organization that sells trucks, buses, and services in over 100 countries. The company’s production facilities are located in Europe, South America, and Asia. Scania also offers financial services in many markets.
Scania Polska is responsible for the sale and rental of new and used vehicles on our market, but also provides a wide range of maintenance, repair, and financial services. The company stands out from the competition with a dense network of workshops located throughout the country – most of them are owned by the company. Scania Poland employs nearly 700 people, half of whom are mechanics.
21 robotized processes
The most interesting automated process: automatic booking of purchase invoices using OCR techniques, machine learning, and an unattended UiPath robot, the so-called Virtual Accountant.
Shortening the processing of the invoice: 2 hours instead of 5 days
Return on investment for the Virtual Accountant project: 11 months with 4 thousand invoices per month
The Challenge: the continuous search for process excellence using innovative technologies
At Scania, we tailor our solutions to your needs. We provide solutions to increase productivity while reducing our environmental impact. Scania’s success as a leader in sustainable transport is based on values. The Scandinavian organizational culture determines that the customer always comes first, every employee should be respected and the strength of the company lies in determination, unity, and teamwork.
The company’s genetic code includes loss elimination, continuous improvement, and innovation. A unique initiative of Future Room is a space for creative thinking, development of passion, and ambition. This is where new ideas sprout and develop, which constitute further steps towards a vision of sustainable transport accessible to all.
Continuous improvement is inscribed in our DNA. For many years we have been trying to optimize processes, both in production, in workshops, but also in the administrative area. Two years ago we heard about RPA which stands for Robotic Process Automation. We have been intrigued by the idea of using robots that replace human work with repetitive activities and that can work on many different systems simultaneously. We have understood that we can achieve significant benefits in process optimization,” says Tomasz Mosoń, Member of the Scania Polska Management Board.
The company decided on a pilot project using a trial license offered by UiPath, an RPA solutions manufacturer. Within three weeks, it turned out that without major investments, significant effects were achieved. This was the beginning of the robotization of processes at Scania Polska. Other projects appeared quickly, which again brought the expected results and even exceeded expectations as they opened up new possibilities.
Slowly, step by step, we invested more and more effort into process optimization using RPA tools. At one point, when we became convinced that this is indeed a tool that makes it possible to replace human work adequately, we decided to use it in the process of recording invoices from suppliers. The robot took over the job in less than 10 months. It soon turned out that we not only save time and money but also have fewer mistakes – says Tomasz Mosoń.
The solution: sequential, comprehensive automation using Robotic Process Automation tools and artificial intelligence
The first robot in Scania Poland was relatively simple. He was responsible for updating the iScala accounting log. At night, thousands of documents flow into the company’s ERP from external systems. Every morning after coming to work, the accountant started an update process lasting even an hour. It was a waste of time for him because he could not use the system at that time. The effect of RPA was immediate and noticeable. By switching on the robot, which at night, after receiving a signal that all documents had been sent, performed a log update, the accountant could immediately, without wasting time, take care of the next tasks.
That is why the next steps on the automation path were quickly taken. Due to technical problems or factual errors, updating the log was sometimes incomplete – not all documents are sent and booked. Always after the update, it was necessary to compare two lists: the documents that should go into the system and those that were actually in the system. After trivial but time-consuming error correction, data were taken from the current log to reports where they were converted according to internal accounting rules. A file was created which was saved on disk and imported into the ERP system, followed by another update of the accounting log.
All these processes were perfectly suited for robotization. What’s more, they were arranged in a sequence: the accountant would update the log, check that nothing was missing, correct errors, recalculate and generate a file that had to be re-imported into iScala. The process has been automated with four successively implemented robots,” explains Piotr Krzysztoporski, Vice President of Mindbox, which is Scania Polska’s ERP and RPA partner.
After automating a dozen or so processes, the company decided to take up a bigger challenge, i.e. automating the process of booking invoices from suppliers. This is one of the key processes from the perspective of the accounting department. Until recently, it was handled by an external outsourcing team of a few people, but today it is the responsibility of the Virtual Accountant.
This was a more complex challenge because automatic document accounting required four independent robots and the solution architecture had to take into account the use of intelligent OCR and artificial intelligence algorithms. Thanks to the use of machine learning, if a robot is not able to apply one of a dozen or so accounting rules to a given invoice, artificial intelligence decides how to classify it based on the content of the invoice,” says Krzysztof Kuczkowski, Senior RPA Consultant at Mindbox.
The processing, structuring, and verification of invoice input data is the responsibility of intelligent OCR technology. Data interpretation is, in turn, the domain of Applica.ai technology. Document accounting in the document circulation system and ERP are supported by UiPath solutions.
The technology pathway
Scania’s robotics are based primarily on UiPath’s RPA technologies. These are proven solutions developed since 2013 and used in many organizations around the world, including PWC, Deloitte, EY, Accenture, a nd IBM. According to Forrester’s report for 2017, UiPath is one of the three market leaders in robotic process automation.
Benefits: robots work faster and without mistakes, allowing people to focus on more valuable tasks
The automation of processes let us have data in our system beforehand, we can react earlier to situations that are happening in our area of activity. This also enables us to pass them on more quickly to our dealers and our parent company, Scania Global,” says Konrad Matulka, Accountant/Coordinator at Scania Polska.
The effect of Virtual Accounting is to shorten the process from receiving an invoice to sending it to final acceptance from 5 days to a few (2 to 5) hours. Preparation of an XML file, which stores all invoice data in a structured form, takes only 90 seconds, and preparation of the booking takes about 45 seconds. The return on the investment was made with 4 thousand invoices per month in less than a year.
This is a real robotic revolution. RPA robots can work 24/7, without supervision or with only minimal human involvement. They speed up processes and make fewer mistakes. Of course, the robots did not replace the accountants. However, they allowed them to deal with matters for which there was no time before. The need to focus on the basic activities makes the time for innovation insufficient. Thanks to RPA, the accountants can take care of improvements in the area of document circulation, vindicating or more advanced reporting using predictive analytics.
Not only do robots help people with this most monotonous and repetitive work, but they also open up new possibilities. This was the case with the night-time automation of a sequence of manual activities related to updating the accounting log. Scania Polska’s data warehouse processing takes place overnight, as it is a major server load due to a large amount of data. Until recently, this meant that the data used by top executives in making decisions was always delayed by one day.
Once the robots started to perform all data preparation activities at night, it was also possible to prepare data for managers on the same night – the conversion of OLAP cubes was triggered the robot at the end of the sequence. Every morning, top management has a complete set of up-to-date information. We managed to achieve an effect that was not initially planned – says Piotr Krzysztoporski.
This is a good illustration of the fact that RPA automation is not just about the simple replacement of human labour. Robots open up new possibilities and provide additional benefits. In this case, they shorten the waiting time for data and allow to make better decisions and respond faster to the changing business situation – adds Piotr Krzysztoporski.
The experience gained with the first robots allows Scania Polska employees today to look at other processes not individually, but more comprehensively, as larger process sequences. This approach allows to achieve more. The success of the implementation of the first robots was the reason why RPA started to be thought of not as a project, but as a long-term program. A comprehensive strategy has been developed to approach automation, and accounting is no longer the only business area in which Scania Polska uses robots.
We started the implementation of RPA in the accounting department. There we had the most processes susceptible to automation. Another area was the sales and logistics departments – there are also many processes for the robot. And that’s where we’ve saved the most time, i.e. the robots have replaced the time people spend on entering data or updating systems on a large scale,” says Robert Salamon, IT Manager at Scania Polska.
We also have automated processes in the HR department, in the IT department, and we are still thinking about other areas, in fact, you can find robotically susceptible processes everywhere – adds Robert Salamon.
The robotization project at Scania Polska continues and even begins to expand. There are plans to implement more robots. The results achieved by Scania Polska have attracted interest from other local branches of the global organization. The automation of invoice booking with intelligent OCR was particularly interesting. Recently, a workshop on the robotization of this process was held in Poland. Representatives from 8 Scania companies in Europe took part in it.
Implementing RPA is sometimes simple, sometimes it takes a short time, but sometimes some errors can be corrected on an ongoing basis. Unlike traditional IT systems, the robot requires care after start-up, as is the case with the production line. It is also much easier to automate if we have a good knowledge of the process in which robots replace human work and when we have good documentation. Of course, what counts are committed people and an experienced technological partner – meeting these conditions we can expect achieving success – adds Tomasz Mosoń.
Financial Director, Member of the Board at Scania Polska
ERP & Intelligent Process Automation Practice Director at Mindbox
Senior RPA developer, Team leader at Mindbox
IT Manager at Scania Polska