7 Use Cases For Robotic Process Automation In The Construction Industry

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4th January 2023
5 Minute Read

Some time ago when the case for RPA in construction was first mooted there was a generalized shrugging of shoulders, as if the two disciplines didn’t have a hope in hell of finding common ground. Thankfully times and attitudes change and now RPA in construction is routinely used in many of the core processes, and even quite a few on-site applications too.

 

7 examples of RPA in Construction

 

1. A variety of on-site tasks

Traditionally, RPA can get pigeonholed as being most useful when programmed to execute the tasks of office management. However, it has also been used effectively in the construction industry for several creative on-site roles, which weren’t immediately apparent. For example:

  1.   RPA can be applied to the techniques of cutting raw materials. It can help to efficiently plan the cutting process so that the best use is made of expensive raw products.
  2.   In construction some raw materials are prepared on site. RPA can be programmed to effectively lead the preparation process to maintain consistency and quality.
  3.     RPA can be used to draw accurate and precise site surveys, even down to bricklaying on defined plans.

 

2. Document management

In the past, any visit to a construction site Portakabin office would reveal a row of filing cabinets where paper copies of plans, drawings, and associated documents were stored. It was never an ideal arrangement, resulting in lost folders, and was often made worse by repeatedly handling documents with dirty hands.

RPA offered the ideal solution, so all documents are scanned and stored centrally for all stakeholders to access. RPA is programmed to locate the correct folders for viewing and then ensure the documents are safely secured back in the same location

 

3. Invoicing

Inefficient invoicing is a frequent problem for the construction industry. Standardization often plays a part because it is so hard to implement in an industry that is often subjective. No one project is the same as another and so all the constituent parts need to be costed separately. In addition, each invoice often necessitates data from several sources, which needs to be collated accurately.

RPA can be implemented to manage most of these challenges effectively. Often an ad hoc design of RPA can be created for a construction company, which acts as a template for all invoices. This helps to standardize the procedure and ensures accuracy and reliability. In the same vein, it also significantly improves cash flow with a more efficient invoicing process.

 

4. Supply Chain Management

Effective supply chain management is crucial to the smooth running of construction projects. The financial impact of a site missing an essential material, which holds up progress, can quickly snowball.

RPA can be implemented to manage many of the documents associated with purchasing materials. Often these documents are associated with different departments and it is up to RPA to liaise between them so all stakeholders are kept up to speed with the progress.

Relevant documents associated with supply chain management include quotes, purchase orders, invoices, contractual agreements, and revisions. RPA can additionally allocate materials used for each project and document it individually for more accurate billing.

 

5. Cost Monitoring and Control

Reducing costs associated with manufacturing can lead to reduced selling prices in the marketplace and a keen competitive edge. So, the importance of monitoring and optimizing input costs is a vital part of any business model.

RPA can be designed to continually monitor pricing information provided by suppliers, contractors, and architects. This information is collated so that the purchasing power of bulk buying and special offers can be fully utilized. The complex nature of all the different materials used means templates must be devised for each. However, once established the reports for cost monitoring and control are easy to produce on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

 

6. Recruitment

Staff turnover in the construction industry still has a reputation for being high. This is caused by the seasonal nature of the work, a significant transfer of young entrants to degree courses instead of trade school, and better work offers from competitor companies.

So, the demand for an efficient and streamlined recruitment process is an essential part of maintaining a productive workforce. The process for manually recruiting involves application forms, CVs, and face-to-face interviews.

 The information needs to be collated, analyzed, and stored securely in a database, which can easily lead to excessive human error as well as taking a long time to complete.

Many of the tasks involved in employee recruitment are the same for each candidate. So, employing RPA software is an appropriate implementation for the repetitive, standardized data that each application presents.

RPA can carry out the tasks in a fraction of the time it would take a member of staff. Additionally, in the data analysis RPA will improve the accuracy of outcomes and reduce the natural bias often formed by a manual assessment.

Other routine tasks in the recruitment process can be amply carried out by RPA. For example, sending candidates automated application instructions or answering routine questions about a vacancy from candidates.

 

7. IT

The repetitive nature of many tasks in construction IT departments makes it an ideal candidate for the implementation of a range of RPA applications. For any IT department, a server crash or downtime of any kind is a stressful and expensive occurrence. RPA is now successfully deployed to monitor servers, and if required can automatically shut down, reboot, and reconfigure a server autonomously.

RPA can also be configured to conduct routine maintenance of entire IT systems. If an issue is detected full details are sent to the IT department for investigation and remedial action. The prompt detection of such issues improves the likelihood of business continuity.

Setting up a new email account manually can be a lengthy procedure. However, RPA can be programmed to organize a workflow where the account holder’s email ID is generated and their credentials verified. The new email is then automatically circulated to the appropriate email lists throughout the company.

The backup and restore function in the IT department can sometimes fall prey to mistakes when conducted manually. It is another routine but a vital task that needs to be regularly and accurately carried out. RPA is ideally suited to such a workflow, where automation improves the reliability of execution and data.

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