We all have heard the word automation, and we have seen an automation wave crash through our personal and professional lives over the past decade. It was fascinating to talk with my wife, who works in the medical field, about how automation is helping her industry to increase the productivity of its workers.
Blood testing is a common clinical procedure. Before automation, someone had to load all the blood tubes manually, and the priority sample had to be sequenced manually. But with the automation and computer vision with smart optical character recognition, the tubes get loaded automatically and are prioritized based on their barcodes. Before automation, every blood tube had to be opened and loaded. But with automation, now the tubes need to be loaded only once. Through the course of our conversation, she explained that automation not only frees up time for her and her fellow employees at work and but that it allows them to be more productive.
It made me realize how automation is all around us. From a ticket-dispensing machine at your local AMC theater to a gold coin dispenser in Dubai, all of these machines contribute to convenience and the availability of services. But what is the next tier of automation and how is it affecting the workplace?
Software Robots Are Changing The Industry
Initially, whenever I heard the word automation, all I thought about was building a hardware robot or some semblance of a physical machine. But when I stumbled upon the concept of robotic process automation, it was an instant lightbulb moment where I realized software robots can take care of mundane tasks and boost employee productivity by allowing workers to focus on more high-skilled work.
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RPA is a software robot that mimics human actions, whereas artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence by machines. Put another way, RPA is associated with doing whereas AI and machine learning (ML) are concerned with thinking and learning, respectively. And it’s a growing trend. According to Grand View Research, the RPA market is projected to be worth over $3 billion by 2025, and industries like health care, telecommunications and manufacturing have all invested in RPA technology.
This burgeoning area of technology has led to a proliferation of companies that help enterprises with their RPA projects and/or create RPA-specific software, including UiPath, Automation Anywhere and, my own company, Predikly. (Full disclosure: Automation Anywhere is a Predikly partner.) And more and more, I am interacting with businesses seeking RPA help in order to optimize one of the most crucial commodities of the corporate world: the bandwidth of their employees.
How To Implement RPA In Your Business
If you’re a business leader looking to implement RPA in your organization, it’s important to keep in mind that RPA is not about the destination; rather, it’s part of a digital transformation journey. Here are some other tips to keep in mind:
• Look at RPA as a strategic initiative rather than departmental initiative.
• Identify an RPA leader within the company to tackle your RPA-related projects.
• Work with IT staff and various departments within your organization to build an RPA road map.
• Define key automation metrics and measure every process to be automated. If the automation use case passes the metrics test, then they should be prioritized (some of the key metrics are individual bot productivity, bot quality output and bot compliance).
• Identify and work with solution providers that cater to your business needs the most.
• With digital workers being more acceptable, think about revenue opportunities with the bots built for your organization.
• And remember: It’s not just about automating all of your processes; it is important to find the right processes and apply RPA judiciously based on return on investment.
RPA Won’t Replace Human Workers
Traditionally, RPA has been all about building a task robot to carry out a fixed set of rules that do not require any human intervention. But this doesn’t technically translate to dispossessed workers. According to Leslie Willcocks, professor of technology, work and globalization at the London School of Economics’ department of management, “The evidence is that it’s not whole jobs that will be lost but parts of jobs, and you can reassemble work into different types of job.”
Take human resources, for example. HR typically has two main responsibilities: talent acquisition and post-hiring tasks. EY’s report on RPA shows how humans and robots in the HR field can work together. Robots take care of repetitive, data-related duties, while humans are involved in more complex tasks that involve interpretation and decision-making.
The Future Of Work
I’ve seen firsthand that the w orkforce of the f uture is different than what we have seen traditionally. RPA bundled with cognitive (artificial and machine learning) is bringing in great value to the market, driving productivity improvements and innovation. As vendors invest more time in building solutions focusing on building more digital workers which enterprises can hire, you will see in near future, people will hire pre-trained cognitive digital work and use them as their own task force.
With this changing notion, the corporate executive needs to look into the future of the workforce and need to start putting RPA and cognitive as part of their future work as well as productivity strategy.