Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

Even the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is implementing BizRobo! A case of independent productivity improvement using the power of digitalization

  • Automating the registration of changes in personnel, task for which mistakes are not forgiven
  • Employees with no experience in programming oversaw the implementation and have made this task three times faster
  • There are plans to spread this efficiency-improving workplace-friendly tool inside the Ministry

In response to the decreasing birthrate and the aging population, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is urging the industrial community to increase its productivity by using digital technologies for example. While endeavoring on its own toward the digital transformation of governmental procedures and operational processes internal to the Ministry, the Secretarial Section, which leads the internal HR affairs, and which oversees the workstyle reform, focused its attention on RPA (Robotic Process Automation) to substitute routine activity processes done on a computer with a software. In July 2018, it implemented the desktop-based tool “BizRobo!mini”.

The people in charge of registering HR information, who have no experience in programming, are implementing robots they are entrusting with a part of their own tasks. The work hours are now less than three times shorter.

The same Section estimates that efficiency improvement using other methods is difficult, and that a relatively large number of tasks with potential for improvement using RPA are lying dormant among the operational processes at the METI. It also wants to rapidly share knowledge about workplace-led robotic operations and contribute to the diffusions of RPA inside the Ministry.

Business Challenge
Calling out for digitalization, the METI must start an RPA implementation from scratch
It turned its attention to RPA in an effort to improve the efficiency of its HR affairs

Central government ministries and agencies which deal with planning and executing national policies, are run with a budget approved by the parliament and with personal quotas grounded in laws and ordinances. Maybe because they have no other choice than directing all their limited resources to the realization of their policies, IT investments for internal office work tend to come late, and the use of paper and stamps is not rare to this day.

While urging the Japanese industrial community that suffers from the shrinking of the working-age population to improve its productivity with digital technology, the METI estimates that similar efforts are also necessary for governmental procedures and ministerial operational processes. In July 2018, it put in place a new unit, “The Digital Transformation Division”, that improves operational processes and promotes the use and application of data.

With plans to expand this inside the Ministry, the Secretarial Section for the Minister’s Secretariat, which oversees METI’s HR affairs and the work style reform, has started to transform business processes, taking small steps. Among concrete solutions, it focused its attention on RPA and started an evaluation in March of the same year.

Why BizRobo!
They acknowledged a stable behavior under the multi-purpose environment of a PC
They also valued a price setting adapted to an express trial as well as the warm customer support

In parallel of their usual work, employees of the Secretarial Section had been testing multiple RPA tools over a period of 4 months, and as a result, opted for the full-scale implementation of the desktop-based RPA tool “BizRobo!mini”.

The METI employees’ PCs are either notebooks or tablets and can be used in a dual display configuration once connected to the external monitors on their desktops. Under an environment of such diverse display methods (varying screen sizes and resolutions), the RPA tools that rely on positional cues on the screen to specify the content of their tasks tend to behave faultily.

It is however possible with BizRobo! to specify target tasks without ambiguity (object recognition). For that reason, its behavior was judged the most stable one among the tools that had been investigated this time.

On top of its stability, they also valued the customer support and the price setting for BizRobo!mini they thought was adapted to an express implementation starting small-scale.

Target Processes
First investing in the processes of registering change in management-level personnel at the Ministry Central Office
Improving efficiency of Task for which mistakes are unforgivable, or which are particularly burdensome during peak times

After investigating the HR processes with potential for robot-assisted improvement, registering information pertaining to changes in personnel and transfers of responsibilities within the METI Central Office to the “HR/payroll (personnel) system”, managed by the National Personnel Authority, became the first implementation case.

Each year, about 1,300 employees change position within the Ministry Central Office where approximately 4,000 people work. If we include simultaneous nominations, the number of registrations to the “HR/payroll system” reaches about 2,000 cases.

In the Ministry, information related to decided changes in personnel is managed in an Excel file called the “Task Flyer”. The people in charge verify if no conflict exists with the personnel quotas fixed by law, register the adequate information in the personnel system and write letters of appointment.

It has been decided that robotic substitution for year-round registration tasks, was effective when dealing with lack of personnel during peak time or with basic tasks where mistakes are unforgivable. They first automated the registration for about half of the management-level personnel (more or less 900).

Business Impact
The treatment time is more than 3 times shorter, and unsupervised operations are also on the horizon
The burden of checking has been alleviated thanks to the gain in precision during copying manipulations

A study in real context showed that registration tasks that used to take 10 minutes by case when done manually, have now reduced to 3 minutes thanks to automation. Copying mistakes became impossible, and the burden of checking letters of appointment before issuing them has decreased.

Filling the categories of the traditional Task Flyer, which relied on human-processed registration, was loose and data close to free comments as well as unfilled columns were tolerated. As merely handling data in such a format to a robot to automatically process them would cause errors, they redesigned the Task Flyer to fit an optimal format and correct the relevant data accordingly before registering them in the personnel system.

If they make a circuit out of those transfer tasks, registering information from the Task Flyer to the personnel system would become perfectly automatized. For the next future, the people in charge are expecting to delegate those registration tasks to robots without supervision anymore, which would allow them to entirely dedicate themselves to other operational processes.

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Company Name Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Business content Government/Public Agencies
Respondents Assistant Section Manager, Subsection Chief, HR Specialist
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