A New Software Robot Per Week Creates Continuous Improvement at Johnson Controls

By Shail Khiyara

When you’re chartered with continuous process improvement for a $30 billion multinational corporation, you’re constantly looking for faster, less expensive, less IT-intensive ways to achieve scalable, sustainable change. So, when Steve Sikes, director of continuous process improvement for industrial manufacturer Johnson Controls’ global business services group (GBS) learned about enterprise RPA at a conference a couple of years ago, he knew he needed to explore it further.

Johnson Controls Image

As he explained to the April 2018 Blue Prism Café audience, he invited the top RPA providers on Gartner’s list to do a proof of concept on three accounting processes in the company’s U.S., Slovakia, and China centers, as global capabilities were critical to the company’s needs. Sikes’ team then used a Pugh Matrix to evaluate each of the software solutions against 25 criteria, including: an enterprise RPA solution that could be shared across multiple functions and departments on a global scale; security and auditability; and quick ramp-up and an ability to scale quickly. Johnson Controls selected Blue Prism because of its top-ranking scores on all the criteria.

Fast Scalability
Sikes noted that one of the particularly appealing aspects of Blue Prism was that they could house the servers, database, and architecture inside its data center, giving anybody in the company access to the robotic environment as long as they had completed the Blue Prism training requirements, and adhered to Johnson Controls’ governance requirements and standards.
 
More than 70 members of the company’s digital workforce have already been deployed, and new ones are being added at an average of one per week.
 

“By supporting a decentralized development and ownership environment, we’ve been able to scale at a very fast pace.”

Picking Processes
To select the first processes to automate, Sikes’ team and a Blue Prism representative went to Johnson Controls’ Monterrey, Mexico business center to conduct an in-person opportunity assessment. They initially identified more than 900 processes. And after more business lines understood what the solution could do, that number jumped by the hundreds. But at the outset, Sikes and his team whittled the initial 900 down to 50 processes with an impact score that considers factors including FTE savings, quality, repeatability, auditability, and business intelligence.
 

“With robotics, I can take a process that ran yesterday and in 10 minutes figure out what the capability is, what the exceptions are, and start to attack those exceptions with remedies.”

Measuring Value
Every day, Sikes runs a daily call with the global GBS team members to look at the robots’ scorecard. They track hours returned to the business, cost per transaction, capture rates, process capability, daily volume and run rate, and object reuse rate. Sikes is looking into additional, more classic measures like cash improvement, cost per invoice processed or payment applied, so the company can see the true impact to the business P&L and balance sheet.
 

“There’s tremendous value in the RPA solution, and it’s just a matter of squeezing out that value.”

Lessons Learned
Sikes shared four key learnings with the Café audience. First, plan on spending most of your time educating and organizing the business to adapt to a digital workforce, it’s a new paradigm. Second, stay simple to begin with.
 

“The reality is you actually need to deploy one entity and build on it, because the speed with which you can do the second, third, fourth, fifth and so on is going to be much faster, but you want to make sure your base process works, then stabilize and grow it.”

Third, IT and business need to work in concert, with the right balance for your unique needs. “We [the GBS team] own the building, development, and resourcing, and set the priorities. IT owns responsibility for the architecture, how it’s configured, and how robots are accessed.” Fourth, make sure you have leadership support to help with pushback and wrong perceptions, change management cannot be forgotten.

Johnson Controls’ RPA Success Story
Click here to view the webinar and hear all the details Sikes shared about his company’s RPA journey.