Ferda AS is the Nordic region’s leading chain of campervan and caravan distributors, for both sale and rental. Ferda has been working to make holidaying in a campervan or caravan more attractive for everyone since 1984. Ferda currently operates ten distribution outlets located throughout Norway, and is a member of the Norwegian Caravan Industry Association.
For many years, Ferda has been expanding steadily, and is now a strong and well-reputed chain. The amount of administrative work involved has also increased in line with the size of the company. Ferda uses Verendus, a cloud-based business management system, with employees manually retrieving the data they need to produce reports and analyses. However, to retrieve data from the entire group, it was necessary to log in via a separate user ID for each individual outlet. This was both repetitive and time consuming. As a result, going in and finding the most up-to-date data was not always prioritised. Ferda therefore decided it needed an RPA solution that could automatically log itself in on a daily basis and ensure that the most up-to-date figures were always readily available.
What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
In recent years, use of RPA solutions has become increasingly common in both public and private sector organisations. RPA enables the creation of automated solutions that can improve, streamline or even replace tasks that had previously been done manually. Little wonder that RPA solutions have been likened to having a “virtual employee”.
Solutions of this kind are easily scalable and require only minor adjustments to repeat the same task for another department. To minimise complexity, it is crucial that the automated solution has clearly defined rules for expected behaviour. With RPA, you design an expected behaviour for the tasks you want doing. An RPA solution will never deviate from the activity the solution is designed to perform. It will stop only when it encounters unforeseen obstacles – unless it is equipped with artificial intelligence.
Automation for greater efficiency
Because obtaining daily updated analyses was time consuming for Ferda, the company did not always have the latest data at its fingertips. The RPA solution has been set to do the whole task, so that employees can go straight to the analyses instead of digging around in data files. As a result, they now always have the correct totals, and can know the exact YTD figures every day. Having such up-to-date data puts you in a much stronger position when negotiating financing and loans with your bank, for example. Power BI is currently used to generate reports from the data. The solution can be further developed in many different ways, and all login information is stored securely in the Credential Vault – which makes it possible to refer to an encrypted password instead of having to hard-code login information.
Some benefits of Robotic Process Automation (digital assistant)
One of the tasks that the solution performs every day is to retrieve financial data from Excel spreadsheets, which are then combined using Excel macros. The benefit arises when a simple task is repeated across users and banks. For example, one bank may require four different users, with the same task being done for all of them. Replacing repetitive work governed by simple rules is easy, since it requires little flexibility. Furthermore, the system downloads inventory data and publishes it on SharePoint and an FTP server every day.
A big advantage with this type of solution is that you can restart the program at any time, at no extra cost, since you don’t need additional licences for the various robots. To find out where you will achieve the highest ROI, you constantly assess where the biggest savings lie. In short, Ferda’s RPA solution performs at least 16 hours of work each week. A scheduled run is carried out in the morning, so that updated reports are ready by the time the other employees arrive at their desks.
With this type of project, it is important to identify your needs, as well as define some tangible goals for the solution before you get started. It is also important to understand where you can achieve the highest ROI. If you identify many opportunities for automation, rank them in order of priority based on their ROI. Then the actual development of the workflow and the solution’s design can get underway. Testing is performed continuously to ensure an optimal solution. Ferda’s solution is made up of several subprocesses. This provides a development process that is easy for the customer to keep track of, and where additional functionality is often integrated and put into production as the acceptance tests are gradually passed. This kind of process model is often called CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment).
Once your RPA solution has gone into production, it may subsequently need some maintenance or adjustment. Logic and behaviour are often built on the basis of information and data from a third party. Any change in the information that the automated solution reads or receives will require the solution to be adjusted, in order to ensure the expected behaviour. This is normally a quick and easy process.
Ferda’s solution has not only saved the company a lot of time, but has also increased security, reduced the number of errors and enabled staff to devote their time to more challenging tasks. The solution has been designed with an eye to future upscaling, and further development will be based on where the highest ROI can be generated. The solution automates some manual processes, but we can also say that it has made some improvements. Ferda is pleased with the solution and sees the tangible benefit in having the latest data ready for use each morning. This type of automated solution can create value for a host of other companies as well, and we look forward to more exciting problem-solving with RPA in the future.