Insurance companies in German-speaking countries are discovering the topic of robotics for themselves. The technology itself is not new, but is receiving much more attention in the context of digitalization. The term “robotics” alone is misleading. What is meant is not physical robots, but software that automates processes. The somewhat bulky term robotic process automation (RPA) is therefore more appropriate.
According to the German Finance Magazine, Zurich Insurance Group has relied on robotics since 2016. In principle, robotics is suitable for automating simple processes that follow clear rules. Examples are terminating a life insurance policy or handling a glass damage report in the auto insurance business. The robotics software executes the same rule-based processes as a human clerk would: Imitating the clerk, the software robot enters the data on the screen and interacts with the user-interface as a human would.
Advantages of Robotics
The advantages of using RPA for process automation are obvious and correspond to ones achieved when using robots in industrial plants:
Robots are faster than humans, never tire or take a break, makes fewer mistakes and costs significantly less over time than a colleague of flesh and blood.
… and the Disadvantages
However, software robots also have major drawbacks: Applied in complex processes with many case distinctions, exceptions or situations which need interpreting, a software robot will be overwhelmed. Moreover, even a minor change to process (e.g. requiring an additional date to be entered in a certain step) will require the robot to be reprogrammed. A human employee would adapt to the new process of his own accord.
The pros and cons of using software robots must therefore be evaluated carefully. The basic rule is: Robotics is suitable for simple processes that follow clear rules, such as the processing of large amounts of data. But the technology is currently hardly suitable for anything more complicated.
Robotics using Business Transaction Creator
Consor, together with Zurich Switzerland, decided to pursue a different path. The challenge was to connect an existing international insurance programs application to Consor Universal. This existing source system should “enter” new data into Consor Universal, and we wanted this to happen without any changes being made to the existing system.
Together, we decided to implement the following solution: Consor Universal calls a Web service of the existing system and retrieves the required policy data. The data is streamed in XML format and fed into the Universal Business Transaction Creator (BTC). In turn, the BTC creates a business transaction in Consor Universal and enters the policy data provided by the existing system.
The business transaction is created in exactly the same way as if it had been entered by a user. However, the robotics happen in the background and do not need to interact with the user interface. This eliminates many of the weaknesses of traditional RPA. The solution has been in stable use for several months and was implemented quickly and cost-effectively.