Sumitomo Forestry Information Systems

Sumitomo Forestry Information Systems fosters shorter work hours and work-life balance with its outstanding RPA operating model which runs more than 2,000 robots

  • Highly efficient robot development and deployment methods drive more than 2,000 robots
  • Expanding implementation at a high pace of 10 robots per day
  • With commercialization on the horizon, the company has started to sell robots developed in-house

Sumitomo Forestry Information Systems, the IT Department responsible of systems operations at the Sumitomo Forestry Group, is not only entrusted with commissioned businesses from the Group, but also deploys solutions to improve business efficiency for within and outside the Group. That same company has been taking RPA (Robotic Process Automation) for a new pillar to boost external sales businesses and for improving productivity of the commissioned businesses. It started a trial implementation of BizRobo! in 2015 and there is now a total of more than 2,000 robots in operation. The Company has been creating its own methods to reduce development and operations costs of the robots, and to meet the common demands from various worksites. As a result, it is currently expanding the implementation of robots at a high pace of 10 robots per day. As for the next steps, the company is building an education system about robots as well as a development environment, in order for more people at worksites to directly engage in the operation of robots. It also has plans to start a new business of selling some of the robots developed in the company externally for commercialization.

Business Challenge
Responding to the increase in business activity within the department, and trying to gain more support from the contractors
Hopes for both “efficiency improvement in commissioned office work” and for a “new pillar for external sales business”

Being part of the Sumitomo Forestry Group, which develops businesses related to housing, forest management or even distribution of building materials, the company not only provides services in development operations for IT systems, but also conducts business services commissioned by the Group, and dispenses solutions to improve business efficiency for contractors across the country.

Among those, commissioned businesses from the Group which tend to grow year after year, are confronted to issues such as improving productivity and reinforcing systems that adapt to the increased workload. Partly as a solution to support businesses inside or outside the Group, the company has been offering since 2004 a system of electronic contracts that improves the efficiency of commands reception, delivery, and invoice processing for construction works, and it is now looking for its next core pillar. 

The company decided that the use of an RPA that can largely substitute daily tasks done on a PC would help in solving all these problems at once. In 2014, the company has started an implementation examination, and the “ICT Business Service Department”, an independent section that is responsible for commissioned businesses and solution proposals, has launched the next year in April a trial operation of BizRobo!.

Why BizRobo!
They highly valued an “aptitude towards web-related work” and a “well-established support system”
It is possible to operate efficiently using existing internal infrastructures

The “automatic test” technique that is becoming a base for numerous RPA tools happened to have been deeply familiar to the system development company including Sumitomo Information Systems Company. During investigation, the company also compared specificities of different RPA tools while anticipating post-implementation uses. BizRobo! was adopted because it was suitable in optimising the web-based tasks done with the built-in web browser engine, and because, the vendor, RPA Technologies, has built a support system very early on in Japan.

Building systems of management maintenance that can handle multiple robots operating stably and for a long time has been from the beginning identified as the most important concern, and various solutions have been tested so far. On top of its standard robot management functions, BizRobo! also allows management through other tools/devices, which is why it is currently mainly used to develop and execute of robots. The robot’s registration process is transferred to database software inside the company, and an environment that harmonizes them with the already existing infrastructures is under construction.

Target Processes
The field of application of robots is expanding, and more than 2,000 units are already in operation
Revolutionizing development methods and reaching mass production with 10 new robots every day

While the robotic applications started by focusing on daily tasks on the web such as “downloading wish lists of documents requests for custom houses, from the management screen”, they are now expanding to fields outside the web. For example, “experiments on how to automate the connectivity test between a business computer and the company internal system after a Windows regular update” are currently being done.

The company counts one unit for every robot that is responsible of processing a single new screen that appears on a computer under use. There are more than 2,000 robots in operation within the company, and they grow at a pace of 10 new units per day. This results from a re-evaluation of development methods that required the users to create robots from the scratch each time. By combining “robot parts”, the already existing development results, the company was able to reduce the man-hours for development down to one fifth. It has also established an organisation able to provide various departments with the multi-purpose functions robots they were looking for.

The concept of "robot parts"(※Source: Sumitomo Forestry Information Systems Co., Ltd)

Business Impact
For some business processes, more than 10,000 hours are unleashed within a single year
With commercialization on the horizon, the company has started to sell robots developed in-house

Examples of outstanding implementation results include a “robot that downloads driving data sent by the drive recorders installed in the Sumitomo Forestry Group company cars to a server, and that gathers them into a document”. That substituted the manual work of 1,000 drivers with a single unit. It freed the equivalent of 14,000 hours of work annually. The modularized development processes are not only fast but also easy to manage and to maintain. For example, the data entered by robots is designed to read from external files during the operation and therefore, the users can change the settings by simply revise the Excel files without the need for robot configuration. The high maintainability allows users to reduce the maintenance cost and to devote to the prevalence of robots.
Part of the developed robots are starting to be offered to those other companies that are commissioned with work from Sumitomo Forestry. Preparations towards commercialization are advancing steadily.

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Company Name Sumitomo Forestry Information Systems
Business content System development・operation, commissioned business
Respondents Senior manager, ICT business service department etc.
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