Robots

by Arwold Koelewijn on November 24, 2018

One of the topics that is getting more attention lately is ‘Robotics Process Automation’ (RPA). At Tacstone we build a new proposition on this service. In essence this is a new software service that allows to automate processes, without having to modify the existing software systems. The software can logon, simulate keyboard- and mouse input, and reads information from the screen. This service is most useful for processes that are highly repetitive and with a relative high volume. In this blog I like to explain a use case we implemented a few years ago, based on a similar principle.

In our case, we wanted to make beautiful reports which we then could distribute as pdf. The tool we wanted to work with, SAP Design Studio (SAP Lumira Designer these days), allows for making these beautiful reports. Unfortunately, the standard function to print to pdf is very limited, and at the time in 2014, Design Studio 1.2, it was not possible to automate that as well.

To solve the problem of properly printing, we developed an SDK component, that could handle this in the desired way. With this SDK component, it was possible to push a print button, and the default ‘print to pdf’ from you browser shows up, with the lay-out just right. All you need to do now is ‘save as pdf’.

This was already a huge progress. At the time we thought that since scheduling is a basic functionally that SAP had built in the past for their Bex tools, SAP will build this in the new tools as well. Considering this, we might as well have an intern or something, manually running these reports and saving them as pdf. On average the intern can do maybe 20 in an hour, so that might be ok. So there we had a fallback scenario to continue on this route.

But of course this sounds like a horrible job, so we tried to figure out a way to automate this. A long story short, with the use of PhantomJS, Java and ABAP, we managed to build a robot that was able to mimic this human interface, without having to wait for standard SAP functionality.

At the moment, the robot has been in production for more than three years, and has produced more than 80.000 pdf reports, and is still going strong. Had we had an intern doing this manually, it would have taken this person more than 4000 working hours! Making this robot was therefore a sound investment. Also, the standard functionality SAP is offering about scheduling is, not as sophisticated as we need. So although the robot started out as a temporary solution, it is becoming pretty permanent.

In conclusion: A robot to replace your human interface is worthwhile considering!

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