What is our primary use case?
We are a small but global company. We are about 1,200 people. We are a logistics company, and most of our employees work in our warehouses. So, our office workers are somewhere between 400 to 500 across the globe. Being a logistics company, we are maybe a little bit old-fashioned. There are a lot of papers going back and forth, and we are trying to automate different scenarios. We cater provisions to ships, so we are basically a grocery store for ships.
One important thing is when a ship is going into port somewhere, they put in an order for whatever provisions they need for when they leave port again. So, we need to be quick at expediting their orders. When they put in a request for a quote for whatever products they need, we need to respond very quickly, because the tendency is that whoever responds first gets the order. So, we want to do that. We are trying to sort of increase the speed of those types of operations as well as the quality of them.
It is hard to really pinpoint what it is we are doing, but it's the communication between customers. When we receive a communication from a customer, we want to move the process through our company as quickly as possible and with high quality.
We are fairly new to UiPath still. We do intend to use it company-wide and have started out with purely unattended scenarios so far.
How has it helped my organization?
We invoice every month quite a substantial amount of money to our customers. We saw a problem in that about 20 percent of our invoices were sent to the wrong addresses. That meant that, at month's end, when we were expecting money to come in, we would be missing around 20 percent of our cashflow that month. Of course, we wanted to prevent that because 20 percent of the cashflow of $300 to $500 million a year is a lot of money.
We have automation that runs every night through all our invoices. Because we have some problems with our master data in the company, it does a number of measurements, on whether an address for an invoice seems to be the correct address, and a number of checks, such as, what ship was the goods delivered to? After that, it looks up information through the international registers of ship ownerships, then it will do a number of checks, giving each invoice a score as rating the probability that the address is correct. If it is below a certain threshold, then we will do some manual processing, and we are looking into UiPath Action Center for this. For four or five of our largest branches in the US and Asia, we have seen a significant improvement in the payments at month's end, which has definitely improved our cashflow.
The administration is a SaaS solution, which helps to minimize our on-prem footprint. The only things that we have running on-prem are the machines running the robots. Everything else is handled in the cloud. We don't need to worry about backups, etc.
We are adopting as much as we can some of the things that should reduce the maintenance costs. We are using Robotic Enterprise Framework in our development and Automation Hub to sort of qualify our ideas. So, we are trying to implement a uniform way of doing things throughout the lifecycle of an idea. UiPath supports this fairly well, and I think it will get even better.
What is most valuable?
Just this week, we are launching our Automation Hub effort because we need to start building a pipeline for our automation candidates. Right now, we have eight or nine ideas in our Automation Hub. That will grow quite quickly because we need the help of Automation Hub to decide on which idea that we will be moving forward with next.
UiPath continues to add services to the Portal. It is fairly important that they are all managed from the same place because it is a single point of access, which was a factor that really played into our choice of vendor, UiPath. We use Automation Hub to sort of collect ideas and discover what ideas are good for information, then we use Orchestrator to manage them once they have been developed. We are hoping to use Insights at a later point, when that is available in the cloud, so we have a complete end-to-end solution in one place.
What needs improvement?
Automation Hub is an immature product. We have only been using it seriously for about a week and have already seen some things that will give us a few headaches down the road. We are committed to using it and will continue to use it, but I have some suggestions for improvement. We have been in contact with our local UiPath office about that, and their initial response was positive.
We would like to see more detail and refinement. It is still a young product, and we are confident that the product will improve a lot over the next few months.
We are hoping for some integrations between Automation Hub, Orchestrator, and Insights.
We are missing a way to quantify that money isn't everything with this solution.
For how long have I used the solution?
Our license was activated sometime in July. So, we have been using it for about six to seven months.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
We have seen a few quirks here and there. Overall, we are satisfied with the stability.
We have only a couple of handfuls of automations running, which are very stable. So, we are not doing much maintenance at all. Maintenance needs half an FTE, if even that.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
The potential scalability is really good.
I don't know what the scale is for UiPath Portal. There are still signs that it is a young product, but we see it moving and improving at a really good pace. So, we have high expectations.
How are customer service and technical support?
The technical support has been good. I have only used them a couple of times. The response has been good. They are knowledgeable.
One of the big reasons why we chose UiPath is that it has a big following in online communities. It has a good forum itself: Forum.UiPath.com, but I really wish that UiPath would have moderators in their forums who are more active. There are a lot of questions that go unanswered, and that is a shame.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We didn't previously have any other automation solutions in this company.
How was the initial setup?
Our initial setup was very straightforward. Our deployment took only a couple of days. We are a small operation with only two unattended licenses. We created the Orchestrator account and installed the robots on two servers.
As far as development goes, we really just have the base package. Then, we are adding on Automation Hub right now.
What about the implementation team?
We did engage with their local consultancy. They sort of helped us build a strategy for the infrastructure structure setup and strategy, as far as how to identify candidates, operations, and development. However, initially, we just wanted to pull the trigger very quickly. We had an evaluation phase of a couple of months, where we were testing different products and had tried to set up UiPath before, which helped.
We have used Carve Consulting, and our experience with them has been fantastic. We are working with this third-party consultancy to have them come up with a couple of ideas for some solutions that would involve AI Center for the end of this year or next year.
The initial deployment needed just a couple of people from our side, including me. I worked a little with some of our infrastructure guys, getting the accounts set up, the service division, provisions, etc.
What was our ROI?
We just haven't scaled to a point yet where there has been any kind of return on investment.
There are not very many users because the stuff that we have automated so far has just taken work off people's hands. Where a person used to spend all day uploading pricing data into a database, we have a bot doing that now. So, people are not using UiPath, they have just sort of been relieved of their duties. While that sounds bad, we have made an effort to find areas where FTEs get to spend time doing what they are best at.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
The licensing is too expensive. It is not a cheap product. We constantly have to build business cases where we have to justify our existence as an RPA team.
We have engaged in a long-running licensing agreement because we believe in the product.
We have used a third-party consultancy, and that's definitely not free.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We looked at a local variant of Kofax RPA called SmartRPA, which was built by a Danish company. It is basically Kofax RPA with an Orchestrator service built on top of it. We evaluated that. We also looked at something called OpenRPA, mainly due to price.
UiPath is built on top of Windows Workflow Foundation, which is a platform that I have worked with previously. So, there was a lot of familiarity and extensibility. Then, we looked at how good the product is at automating desktop applications. There was not really a contest there; UiPath was better by far.
The fact that this is a SaaS solution very positively affects how fast we are able to innovate when it comes to automation. When we did the evaluation of what product to choose, UiPath versus something else, the ability to assess deployment of the whole administration was a key factor.
In our decision to go with UiPath, it was very important that we didn’t have to worry about future installations and upgrades of Orchestrator. We just didn't want the trouble of having to do upgrades. With UiPath being a young product that is evolving very quickly, we would be doing on-prem upgrades every few months and we don't have time for that. So, we liked the idea that it is a cloud-based setup.
Security was a factor in our decision to go with the solution. We didn't look into all the technical specs and certifications. We just looked at some of their customers, and said, "If that bank is using it, and it is used in the defense industry, then they know what they are doing." They had good references.
What other advice do I have?
It is the best product.
It is an automation product. At the end of the day, it is software development. If there is anything that is important in software development, it is that you have a defined process from beginning to end, from the birth of the idea until it has been put into production and eventually retired. So, you need to have a defined process for different stages in the lifecycle that you need to be in control of. The product somewhat helps us do this with Automation Hub and the Robotic Enterprise Framework, but we are looking forward to even more tools for stuff like that.
So far, we are still in the meat and potatoes space. We haven't really gone into the AI or Document Understanding stuff yet.
UiPath Portal is good overall for enabling administrators to work with Orchestrator. I have seen a lot of improvements, even in the last six or 12 months. We are learning as we go. For the first few months, we were working in a classic folder. Now, we are adopting modern folders in order to better be able to scale our efforts.
UiPath provides granular, role-based access control and management. Right now, that is not so important to us because we do everything unattended. So, we have a couple of service accounts that run everything. However, once we move into attended scenarios, then it's really important that we have that granular control.
I know that there are some new features coming out in regards to deploying automatically and elastically, but we haven't looked that much into them. We don't expect them to be a problem.
We are looking forward to doing attended robots, but that will probably be in the second half of this year when we start looking into that.
For the size of our company, we started fairly big. We went all in, buying licenses, consultancy hours, etc. We have spent a lot of money this first year. I would probably advise someone to start small but still be ambitious. Do a lot of PoCs and see how it fits into your organization. There needs to be a lot of disciplines surrounding it, e.g., if you just stay with five or 10 automations, then things are good. However, once you build 100, you start running into maintenance problems and things like that, so there needs to be a discipline.
You don't need to spend a million dollars to sort of get off the ground, so I would advise people to start small.
I would rate this solution as an eight (out of 10).
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
Which version of this solution are you currently using?