Ooi Su Fen (ODPRT) and Loh Eng Hong (OETU) created RPA bots to digitalise various manual tasks
Loh Eng Hong
Senior Executive
OE Transformation Unit
Ooi Su Fen
Systems Analyst
Office of the Deputy President (Research & Technology)

Digitalising tasks with Robotic Process Automation

For departments across the University, repetitive manual tasks, such as data entry and extraction, underpin a large part of administrative processes.

To support staff who manage these time-consuming tasks, NUS IT and the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education launched Robotic Process Automation (RPA) courses to train staff to create bots that automate repetitive tasks. By emulating mouse-clicks and automating data capture, RPA enables users to accurately programme repetitive processes such as data entry and extraction.

As part of the course, Loh Eng Hong, Senior Executive at OE Transformation Unit created an RPA bot to help the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) automate a series of manual data entry processes. Eng Hong’s bot was programmed to read a consolidated Excel file comprising clinical posting schedules, assessment forms and medical students’ clinical rotations, which subsequently generated over 2,500 assessment form distribution lists for Entrada (NUS Medicine’s learning management system).

Aw Bee Hoon, Senior Assistant Manager at NUS Medicine shared that the RPA bot required only four minutes to create each distribution list. “We took the opportunity to streamline our department’s existing processes before designing the bot,” Bee Hoon added. 

Ooi Su Fen, Systems Analyst at the Office of the Deputy President (Research & Technology) leveraged RPA as a tool to manage the data entry process of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) module for the Integrated Research Information Management Suite (iRIMS) system. “By creating an RPA bot, I was able to upload 1,800 legacy records onto the iRIMS-IRB system while saving 114 man hours to date,” said Su Fen, who is currently working on another bot. The upcoming bot will be programmed to automate the process of extracting, uploading and downloading grant-related documents from external research agency systems. It will also be enabled to upload this information on the iRIMS system to facilitate the research grant call, pre and post-award stages. 

As of September 2020, 150 NUS staff have participated in the RPA courses and created bots that helped their respective departments save an estimated 14,000 man hours of manual work through automation. They are also receiving ongoing guidance through the Community of Practice, a platform for RPA trained staff to share best practices.

Organisational Excellence is a strategic initiative undertaken by the University to develop best practices for an efficient and world-class administration to better support NUS’ Vision and Mission. It aims to bring about improved work processes and policies as well as create opportunities for talent development and growth.


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