The FAMUR Group, one of the world's leading suppliers of top-class equipment and technology for the mining industry, is in the process of a strategic shift in its operations. With its dominant shareholder, TDJ, it has begun building a holding company to invest in the green energy transition. At the digital level, Microsoft Power Automate will support FAMUR in creating the company of the future.

By the end of 2024, at least 70 per cent of the FAMUR Group's revenues are to come from outside the coal energy sector. The first step of the transformation is to enter the photovoltaic sector based on the combined resources and competencies of Projekt Solartechnik, TDJ and FAMUR Group. Today, the latter entity comprises 58 companies located on several continents – in Poland, Germany, Russia, Serbia, Kazakhstan, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa – and five production plants located in various Polish cities.

FAMUR cooperates with suppliers and customers from all over the world. Purchasing raw materials, materials and components for such a large organisation is a considerable challenge in terms of process, having a significant impact on implementing its business objectives. It is the area that the company has decided to take the first step of digital transformation, the proof of concept of robots that support purchasing processes using the Microsoft Power Automate.

Change at the operational level

The FAMUR Group has been transforming the organisation based on lean management for several years. The foundations of this modification are primarily the change of organisational culture and way of thinking to lean management, thanks to which it is possible to optimise processes in the organisation more efficiently.

Several operational activities have already been significantly improved, and tangible benefits have been achieved as a result. At the same time, there is massive potential in business processes (e.g. in systems), where the combination of lean management, standardisation and RPA will generate significant time savings, fundamentally improve data quality and allow resources to be focused on what adds more value to the company and its customers.

From the very beginning of the transformation, employee engagement and consideration of their insights and opinions proved invaluable. They played an essential role in identifying the areas with the most time-consuming, repetitive tasks to select those that would benefit most from robotisation.

It is up to the teams to identify processes for robotisation during the workshop sessions, not the robotisation specialist. Involving employees ensures that they are not sceptical about change but that they look forward to it with curiosity and feel that they are participating in matters of great importance to the whole company. No less important is the management's goodwill and full involvement in the projects. The subject of robotisation is attracting more and more interest, and awareness and openness to action are growing. I am convinced that increasing efficiency in administrative processes will directly translate into building a competitive advantage for the company – says Michał Gołąbek, Lean Director at TDJ Group

Onboarding the robot

The digital transformation began in the back office, where activities often invisible but crucial to customer service occur. It turned out that many administrative and business tasks could not only be improved and standardised but also – due to their significant repetitiveness – automated. With the purchasing process primarily in mind, a review of the software to run robots has begun.

The assistance of our implementation partner, Pirxon, which specialises in the production of software for the robotisation and optimisation of business processes, was invaluable in selecting the right technology. This support allowed avoiding the high costs involved in purchasing the software considered initially by the company.

Work on the first robot took place during the lockdown, so all onboarding of the robot was carried out remotely, using video solutions and collaboration tools. The task of the IT department, apart from coordinating the project, was also developing architecture, policies and security rules for the robot farm to be built under the project – says Dawid Wachowiak, CIO at TDJ.

– The robot has been dedicated to non-productive and time-consuming but essential work to the overall process. The process of quotation, preparation of purchase orders (from the offers and price lists we have collected), and invoice settlement are the tasks we delegated to the robot, and it freed up our time, which we are using effectively says Beata Nalepa, Procurement and Central Logistics Director at FAMUR Group.

Percentage of a billion

In lean terms, the implementation has allowed for an increase in the value-added in the process. Each employee dealing with purchases has more time at their disposal for more valuable tasks, such as expanding the supplier base, searching for alternative contractors or negotiating prices. Given that FAMUR's annual budget for purchases oscillates around PLN 1 billion, benefits of such actions, even at the level of 1 per cent, become huge – says Marcin Nowak, Lean Director at TDJ. He adds that the solution has had the intended effect, and the automation has set the course for further development in other Group entities. Currently, we are expanding the adopted solution – we would like to have robots for handling purchases in all TDJ portfolio companies. The robot is appreciated not only for relieving some of the company's employees but also because it does not make mistakes, works systematically and allows the organisation to operate faster. It also ensures that requests for quotations have been sent to all suppliers, as a result of which the company has a complete picture of the market and can always choose the best available offer – emphasises Marcin Nowak.

Robotisation influences many processes in the FAMUR Group – emphasises Andrzej Kubiak, Development Director at Pirxon S.A. First of all, it allows accelerating the purchasing process. This has a huge impact on the delivery of projects to the final customer. From the perspective of the whole organisation, robotisation of the purchasing process has become an essential link of its competitive advantage – stresses Andrzej Kubiak.

Using the solution opens up access to the whole Microsoft Power Platform ecosystem, i.e. AI, BI, chatbots, etc.– says Hanna Kurek, Dynamics 365 BG Lead at Microsoft Poland. Robotisation may also apply to ERP systems, which are not based on Microsoft solutions. Moreover, robots based on Microsoft Cloud can work faster, they are more stable, and it is easier for the customer to "click" with them – explains Hanna Kurek.

However, the success would not have been possible if it were not for the involvement of almost all employees interested in the issue of robotisation of the purchasing process. After all, it is natural to be concerned about jobs and comfort in the face of any change. However, involving teams of employees in the entire transformation process gave them a sense of influence on events and the final shape of the new tool and thus allowed them to dismiss these fears.

TDJ is a family-owned investment company active in many sectors of the economy. As an investor, it supports its portfolio companies on a daily basis with a range of competences and know-how. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a competence that TDJ will strongly support in its portfolio companies in response to business trends and beliefs and the accelerating global transformation towards automation, digitisation and robotisation.