How Automation creates sustainable added value

A concrete and sustainable added value through Automation can be achieved by combining innovative new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics with a holistic strategy and approach. This is illustrated by the case study of Fresenius Kabi, a healthcare company for high-quality drugs and medical devices.

The Automation journey kicked off with the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) pilot in 2018, which was implemented in the internal Global Business Services (GBS) organization. It bundles administrative processes across the company. The strategic objectives were expanded in 2019 by the Chief Financial Officer and sponsor of the initiative – Gerrit Steen: “Digital technologies are permanently changing the way we live and work. We aim to create additional value through an accelerated enterprise-wide Intelligent Automation (Robotics & AI) scale-up.”

It was clear that a promising solution approach would require radical change of thinking. A significantly more scalable setup was required – in term of speed but also functionally and technologically. In addition, the search for high-value use cases had to be improved and cost for implementing and running the automations to be reduced. Furthermore, a close focus on tangible and effective savings was expected since the beginning. The chosen approach can be explained on the basis of 7 points.

1. New setup for exponential growth

The concept of an exponential organization was deliberately chosen. A small Core Team uses strategic partnerships and thus enables both swift scaling into a wide range of business areas and the utilization of the latest technologies at manageable costs. Partnerships have been established with technology and IT infrastructure providers as well as with a global Automation Partner for Discovery (Search for Use Cases), Implementation and Operation.

2. Focus on maximizing added value

The value focus is reflected in particular in a new value based commercial model which was decisive for the selection of the automation partner:

  • Based on the business objectives, value categories in focus are defined at the beginning of the project (e.g. tangible P&L effective savings). This clearly guides the discovery efforts.
  • The final measurement of value generated through automations is done after the Bot is already running and determines via the predefined gain share formula the payment to the automation partner.
  • First payments only start after the stabilization of the automation. They cover cost for discovery, implementation and support.

Stefano Alecu, Chief Information Officer of Fresenius Kabi elaborates: “The approach allows us to maximize actual value generated through intelligent automation without external upfront invest. This is an important element in minimizing investment costs and risks, not only in times of crisis.”

3. Automation and Artificial Intelligence

The aim is to automate the End-to-End Process using a wide variety of both innovative new (Robotics, AI) and well-established technologies (ERP, VBA).

A solution-oriented approach is important here. The right technologies must be applied, sometimes in combination, to create added value. With AI, the focus lies on established areas of application (e.g. chatbots, computer vision, NLP, recommendation & forecasting engines).

4. Company-wide approach

The overarching goal is to enable the organization to access automation solutions with as few hurdles as possible. Areas with high potential for Intelligent Automation were defined at the beginning and are now being tackled – step by step and in a structured manner. In addition, there is an offer for the broader organization to implement individual use cases in order to gain initial experience.

5. Solid Governance

The global Business Process Experts are an important part of the Governance. They provide support in deciding where automation makes sense. Especially considering the background of the established system landscape, the long-term process strategy and corresponding projects. They also lead Communities with local Process Experts. As a result, locally relevant, common use cases can be identified, evaluated and the change effectively promoted.

6. Driver for Harmonization & Standardization

Intelligent Automation can be used as a driver for harmonization and standardization. Areas with great potential are identified during the structured Discovery Phase. Clearly defined standardizations that are required for automation become visible. At the end a cost-benefit analysis of this specific change can be carried out.

7. Differentiated and exploratory approach

Various offers are available to the business units. They range from the implementation of individual use cases to the transformative value-based approach. In addition, experiments are being carried out. On the one hand it is about the question how the topic can be advanced most effectively in the organization. On the other hand, in addition to the state-of-the-art automation of mature and well-standardized processes, an explorative approach is also being pursued. Here AI use cases are tested to supplement the overarching Automation or to enable completely new use cases.

First successes and Outlook

A few months after the introduction of the new setup, successes were achieved in many areas:

  • The innovative added-value-based model is piloted in the GBS organization.
  • In further areas such as Procurement, Sales and Marketing, Finance and Controlling, IT, Compliance and Treasury Workshops are being held to identify several valid use cases. At the same time, the first use cases have already been implemented.
  • Numerous AI use cases were identified. Currently the selection of the pilot is in progress – the ultimate goal: manageable complexity and a very clear benefit profile.

The priority for the next few months lies in the smooth implementation.
Business priorities change, requirements increase and the dynamics of technological development will progress. In the light of that, it is necessary to continuously develop and adapt both the Core Team and the Operational Model. This way this digitalization initiative can be successfully progressed, bringing benefits for both the company and the employees. Exciting times lie ahead of us!

The author: Norbert Clemens is Senior Vice President for Robotics and AI at Fresenius Kabi. As finance expert, he has been leading the enterprise-wide scale-up of Intelligent Automation since September 2019. Previously, he was responsible for setting up and leading the Global Business Services and ICS organization.

Fresenius Kabi is a global Healthcare Company and part of the Fresenius Group.