After having its Robotic Process Automation foundations set up by Quanton, Westland Milk Products has taken the reins and built out its bot farm.
When Westland Milk Products needed to deploy robotic process automation as part of a major efficiency drive for the business, they knew what they wanted, and it wasn’t to be relying on another company to create every bot.
Instead, Gareth Mitchell, head of digital and improvement, wanted a trusted partner who could provide the foundations for RPA and the expertise Westland Milk Products needed to establish its own internal team to deliver bots across the business.
It found that partner in Quanton and, in turn, it has found the efficiencies and expertise it was looking for too.
Mitchell (pictured below) says the company is on a massive drive to find efficiencies in its business to overcome disadvantages such as the challenge of recruiting new staff to its remote location in Hokitika.
“We really need to have our advantage being the people we’ve got and making sure they’re doing things that add value, rather than anything that doesn’t add value.”
Three years ago, Westland Milk Products turned to Robotic Process Automation.
The company was already using automation from an operational technology perspective on plant, but Mitchell says as an old business with a lot of legacy systems, it wanted to automate processes.
“We didn’t have the new smart technologies and APIs and other ways to integrate that you would love to have in a modern world. So, we’ve used RPA in some interesting and dynamic ways to build bridges between legacy systems and to automate processes that human beings aren’t really great at doing,” Mitchell says.
Quanton is New Zealand’s leading practitioner of automation and leaders in providing digital transformation services, who provided the foundations for robotic process automation and the deployment of UiPath bots across Westland Milk Products business.
Quanton delivered robots into the business and helped train Westland Milk Products own team up, supporting them to build the level of expertise needed within the business to enable it to further build and run the bots themselves.
“A key piece of the mark Quanton has left on Westland Milk Products is that we are using RPA with people who came from the operations side of the business. They were order fulfilment people or in laboratories or other teams. They weren’t technology people,” Mitchell says.
Westland Milk Products IT spend is minimal compared to its revenue, with the company doing a lot of its work in-house with its own team, rather than bringing in consultants and software companies.
“We know what works, so when it comes to RPA we understand where it plays a part in our business and how important it is to us. So, we went out and got the best robots we could get, which Quanton delivered.”
Mitchell says the true benefit of Quanton’s involvement, however, isn’t in delivering the robots. Instead it’s in providing the skill set Westland Milk Products can now utilise to build on and grow.
“If we had to keep coming back to the well to have someone develop something for us, then we might be saving time and money on the end process, but we’d be spending money on saving time and money and that’s not as efficient as the way we do it.”
Three robots deployed
With the expertise built up in-house under Quanton’s guidance, Westland Milk Products has deployed three robots.
“We’ve used RPA alongside other workflow automation tools to automate accounts payable, and have sales orders coming into the business and then into ERP to check shipping line information which is really hard to get across the web – so just pulling information from multiple websites and shipping lines,” says Mitchell.
The bots take the data and translate it into data for Westland Milk Products’ shipping system, checking it against what is in the system and then loading into the ERP system to provide a real time view of all shipping lines and what ships are going, Mitchell says.
RPA for export efficiencies
With exports across the world, including to the US consumer market, Japan, Asia, South East Asian, a large market into China and various parts of Europe, the company’s global footprint is a big driver in needing to have product out quickly.
“We’re the furthest point from all those markets that you could be,” Mitchell says.
“In future we will be using mainly RPA but definitely some level of intelligence, to streamline and speed up the process of creating product and getting it out the door.
Mitchell expects any AI initiatives to be delivered in a similar manner to the RPA project.
“Companies like Quanton are great in that they deliver the expertise and the skillset that allow us to go at our own speed which for us internally, just by having a small team and a small spend, is rapid.
“Our relationship with Quanton is going to be long term. We have three robots running at the moment. We will tap them out. It has been a slow build, but it is going to get more rapid.
“The more chance we have to get into the business and automate processes, the more chance we have of growing with the same number of staff and the same platforms and to just continue to grow our business without growing the baseline cost.”