Ghosts in the machine
Digital robots are helping take care of time-consuming, repetitive tasks.
Audi is developing bots to carry out monotonous tasks for employees on their computers.
5 November, 2019
Imagine firing up your computer and asking it to take care of a report for you, or to enter data for you while you take care of other business. Well that’s what’s happening at Audi, where new digital robots, or bots, are being developed to carry out monotonous tasks for employees on their PC workstations while they attend to matters that require their creativity and expertise.
The scope of work for the digital robots is limited to basic data entry and completing standardised reports, but not only do they save employees the time to carry out these tasks, they are able to complete them faster and without the human error factor.
This is certainly not a case of automation replacing people, but rather allowing the human employees to concentrate on complex and value-adding tasks. To achieve this, Audi built up development expertise in the area of robotic process automation (RPA) last year and in mid-2019, Audi IT founded a centre of excellence that provides the central platform for RPA.
Of course robots are nothing new at Audi, where humans and machines have been working hand in, er… hand, on production lines for some years. But now, employees working on computers are also being assisted by ‘robot colleagues’ albeit in a digitised form.
The scope of work for the digital robots is limited to basic data entry and completing standardised reports
With the introduction of RPA, we are pushing forward the digitalisation of our business, using bots to make our processes more efficient and faster
The new system is called ‘Audi myMate’ and after a pilot phase, the first virtual robot started work in asset accounting in August 2019. Since then, the digital robots have been employed entering and booking capital goods in the system, giving the employees in this area the time for more demanding tasks such as analysing the recorded data. At present, several bots are already in use for Audi, and the company intends to continuously increase the number of digital assistants.
The software robots imitate human employees in the desktop interface. They have their own identity, for example as SAP (Systems Applications & Products) users, and work in a virtual environment. RPA is suitable for all processes in which decisions are made on the basis of clear ‘if-then’ rules. Starting next year, the company also plans to equip some of its digital assistants with artificial intelligence.
“With the introduction of RPA, we are pushing forward the digitalisation of our business,” says Dr. Bernd Martens, Member of the Board of Management for Procurement and IT. “We are using bots to make our processes more efficient and faster, and at the same time are giving our employees more time for more interesting work – a win-win situation for everyone.”
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