RPA for medium-sized businesses: Feneberg Food Retailer automates processes with software robots from Servicetrace

At the Bavarian food retailer Feneberg, a lot of manual data maintenance was required after a changeover of IT systems. A perfect job for bots, thought project and process management director Nadja Popp, who then got the ball rolling on robotic process automation (RPA). Since then, these digital employees have taken over other routine tasks in various areas, such as purchasing and accounting.

Feneberg Lebensmittel GmbH, which is headquartered in Kempten in the Allgäu region of southern Germany, runs around 80 stores, along with its own meat processing and baking operations. The family-owned company employs around 3,200 people. Its aforementioned IT transition was carried out as part of a 25-year cooperation with Edeka, another major German supermarket chain.

Data transfer between IT systems opens the door to RPA

“Switching to an external IT landscape presented us with some new challenges,” Popp explains. “We use the systems and access our merchandise management system, for example, but we can’t always set up interfaces between our IT environment and the external applications or program our own processes in the software.” This meant she and her colleagues suddenly had far fewer ways to automate operational processes. “For instance, we used to have an IT interface between store merchandise management and our retail business and could transfer information between the two systems automatically. That was no longer possible after the changeover,” Popp says. Data would have to be transferred between the two systems by hand – an enormous effort.

“RPA is the right technology for automating processes across different IT systems without interfaces.”

“We naturally wanted to spare ourselves this manual workload,” she continues. “That was when we came across the topic of RPA and realized it was the right technology for automating such processes across different systems without interfaces.” Instead of interfering with existing systems, RPA uses non-invasive techniques that work with graphical user interfaces or desktop screens.

Feneberg chooses Servicetrace over other global RPA providers

“We first looked at the big name in RPA – UIPath – and everyone thought that was a good option at first. Then I thought, let’s see what other vendors there are on the market,” Popp recalls. A simple Google search led to the Hesse-based software robotics specialist Servicetrace and its RPA platform, XceleratorOne (X1).

“I think X1 is a lucky choice, a very attractive RPA solution not only in terms of functionality and value for money.”

Nadja Popp, Head of PMO at Feneberg Lebensmittel GmbH, kicked off the topic of RPA.

“It was a stroke of luck: To this day, I think it’s an attractive RPA solution, and not only in terms of its range of functions and that value we’re getting for our money,” states Popp, who is driving the topic of digital process automation at Feneberg.

The company’s head of PMO cites the integrated BPMN engine as X1’s top feature. With it, Feneberg’s IT team can model or document processes in BPMN format and then develop automation workflows for each individual process step. They were also won over by the RPA lifecycle management integrated into X1, which guides users through the various phases of an RPA project in a structured manner.

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The company’s head of PMO cites the integrated BPMN engine as X1’s top feature. With it, Feneberg’s IT team can model or document processes in BPMN format and then develop automation workflows for each individual process step. They were also won over by the lifecycle management integrated into X1, which guides users through the various phases of an RPA project in a structured manner.

Popp contacted Servicetrace on a whim at the beginning of 2020, and things proceeded quickly from there. She and her two colleagues had already gained some experience with the topic of automation through the software Nintex. “As far as designing automation workflows is concerned, the processes in X1 are comparable, so we were soon up and running,” Popp reports. Thanks to an initial workshop with Servicetrace consultants in Kempten and some subsequent online training, the team at Feneberg was able to get started and automate their first processes on their own within short time.

Software robots work faster: how RPA saves time and money at Feneberg

Servicetrace bots are now taking care of quite a few tasks in areas like invoice entry, as well. “We receive goods invoices by mail or email, and OCR software scans the information in the relevant fields. A Servicetrace bot then enters it into our merchandise management system while still linking the receipts from the archive to the corresponding posting,” Popp explains.

520h

in Buying

800h

in Accounting

6000h

in Branches

Manual invoice entry would have cost Feneberg employees more than 800 person-hours a year. Since the bot handles these activities much faster and more cost-effectively, the RPA solution quickly paid for itself. Feneberg currently saves another 6,000 hours at its stores and 520 hours in purchasing each year thanks to Servicetrace. Meanwhile, Nadja Popp and her team are working with their company’s user departments to identify further processes that are suitable for automation.

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Servicetrace: RPA specialists with customer-oriented solutions

Once these departments provide them with process descriptions, the members of Popp’s team put their in-depth knowledge of process logic to work in modeling corresponding flows in BPMN 2.0. They then present them to the respective user departments for approval before building automation workflows for the bots to follow. The team designs processes and builds workflows in X1 Design Studio. “Continuing to develop their solution with a focus on the customer is another thing I think Servicetrace does really well compared to other providers,” Popp says. Here, the IT colleagues within her team who work with X1 can take their ideas for extending or optimizing the RPA solution directly to the provider. “All we have to do is send our feature requests to Servicetrace support, and before long, the developers have actually implemented them! We always look forward to the next release of X1.”

The current version of X1, for example, was delivered with sophisticated bot monitoring that includes a live streaming feature. With that, Servicetrace has checked another item off the RPA wish list of Nadja Popp and her team. Needless to say, the process managers at Feneberg are looking forward to working with Servicetrace for many years to come as they continue to expand the automation landscape at their company.