Swedish mining and smelting company Boliden is using robotics and automation to free up its procurement team from “cumbersome” tasks, its CPO has said.
Addressing delegates at ProcureCon Europe in Prague, Bjorn Stenecker shared how his team had been building robots to help with administrative work.
“We will never have the perfect system, but robotics will help us get there,” he said, adding that when he asked 200 of his company’s top suppliers what technology they felt would have the biggest impact on the sector, automation and robotics came out clearly on top.
At Boliden, the procurement team has built two robots so far, for contract registrations and order confirmation. For the former, a purchaser sends a PDF of the contract to the robot, which will then archive it, inform the relevant stakeholders and update the system.
The bot took two weeks to programme. “Compliance used to be very low,” said Stenecker. “We have taken away one hour of non-value-added work for people every time they do a contract.”
The other bot scans orders from suppliers, automatically letting them know what information is missing and then updating the system. “That took us three weeks to programme and works really well,” said Stenecker.
“It’s not rocket science to just get going,” he added. “There are lots of areas where you can programme a robot to do those cumbersome things, or those things that never get done. A robot working 24/7 will never get tired of process.”
His ideal “mission” is to develop a robot to check tier three and four suppliers for compliance issues around corporate responsibility.
Another focus for Boliden procurement is creating a supplier ecosystem that encourages suppliers to collaborate on innovation. “How can we get them to work together in an open environment to get the innovation we need?” asked Stenecker.
He added that one change that had proved successful was Boliden removing the requirement for suppliers to hand over IP rights.
“Now there’s no IP, it’s just ‘fire away’,” he said. “That’s an attractive model and the supply base choose to innovate with us rather than our competitors, and we can influence where they spend their R&D money.”