How a robot called Robert came to do office chores at Timber Barron
Three two-week sprints were enough for Quanton to deliver a software robot and relieve Timber Barron’s export staff of their most tedious tasks.
Using Quanton’s Lean Agile robotics implementation methodology, the team was able to prototype the robot in less than five days.
The Auckland-based exporter, with 80 employees across the group, supplies timber and other building products in bulk to the Pacific Islands with a focus on adding value wherever possible.
The company operated a robot as part of a staff retention strategy to ensure that its nine-person small export business service team derives maximum satisfaction from their jobs.
“We have a great team of staff who have been with us for quite a long time,” said general manager Daniel Ludlam.
“They developed skills and knowledge specific to our business, but what we found was that we had a lot of employees spending more time doing menial data entry tasks, instead of watching , analyze and make decisions based on the data they entered.
The company has a custom production system to process invoices that requires manual data entry for all sales and orders and is in the process of upgrading to ERP.
“We wanted our current legacy software to work better for the team until we could implement the new system,” Ludlam said.
“Once we got the bot up and running and released the pressure, we wanted to consider implementing it into our new system so that the team would still have the same basic interaction, rather than going to a new ERP and having to go back to data entry.”
Quanton deployed automation technology from UiPath to develop the robot which is, naturally, called Robert.
“We didn’t say we were going to charge thousands of dollars to do discovery and upfront work to create design documents and PDDs,” said Ursula Riemer, director of strategic engagement at Quanton.
“It was a really agile approach – we put our automation people in front of the client from day one and everything happened in parallel, so it was very fast code rotation and we did demos every week.”
When Robert joined Timber Barron’s team in 2022, it took several staff members several weeks to realize he wasn’t human. They were told he was working remotely and they should just email him.
“Anything anyone can do on a computer that’s a repeatable task is what Robert does,” Ludlam said. “So all of our data entry, putting into the system, stock allocation, customer billing – all of this is done by Robert.”
Timber Barron reaped immediate gains.
“Our team has onboarded Robert into the team and he allows them to do the most enjoyable and value-adding decision-making part of their job and everyone is constantly looking for what he can offload and automate within the framework. of our philosophy of continuous improvement.
Riemer said Timber Barron’s experience highlighted the value of bots for staff retention and employee engagement.
“While there is the productivity angle where Timber Barron has been able to increase his sales work due to his team not having to spend all of their time on data entry, that is the aspect of retention of staff that was most important to Timber Barron,” she said.
“With so many businesses struggling with staff shortages at the moment, we really believe that bots can help New Zealand businesses not only provide an extra worker – who is available 24/7 – but also to ensure that existing human staff are better able to benefit from their work.”
When a staff member left, the Timber Barron team reassigned their workloads, giving Robert additional work, rather than replacing the staff member.
“We are starting at the top level in our export business, which is a professional services business more than anything,” Ludlam said. “But in our other businesses, it’s about taking those learnings and seeing how we can implement them in our manufacturing sites so that we can be a step ahead.”
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Tags Robotic Process AutomationUiPathRPAQuanton