Robots working alongside humans have featured greatly in our collective imagination. Think of the movie classics Blade Runner, A.I., Bicentennial Man and Star Wars. Since then, robots have transformed the manufacturing industry, helping to boost productivity and efficiency. Other industries are beginning to leverage on robotic and AI technologies as well; for example, IBM’s Watson.
Recently, interest for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and how it can increase productivity while reducing costs has been high. In fact, Transparency Market Research reported that RPA is expected to see a 60.5% annual growth rate worldwide through 2020.
What is RPA?
According to the Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence, “Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.” Infoworld describes RPA as a software that helps to “automatically process transactions, manipulate data, trigger responses and communicate with other systems as necessary” with the end of “reducing or eliminating the need for people to perform high-volume IT support, workflow, remote infrastructure and back-office processes.”
RPA presents a lot of opportunities for companies including reducing error rate and turnaround time, improving services, increasing scalability and improving compliance. Employment of RPA will largely depend on the unique needs of both an organization and the industry in which it belongs. Looking at how early adopters have benefited from RPA however is a good way to see how you and your organization could possibly leverage on this new technology. Deloitte University Press cites some examples from different industries and how they adopted RPA:
- A large consumer and commercial bank used RPA to redesign its claims process by deploying 85 software robots to run 13 processes and handle 1.5 million requests per year. This resulted in the bank being able to increase their operational capacity equivalent to 230 full-time employees while only spending 30% of the usual costs. Moreover, the bank recorded a 27% increase in tasks performed “right the first time.”
- Another leading global bank was able to use RPA to automate 57% of its payments work even in the highly regulated area of foreign trade finance. Their challenges with the process included working with highly unstructured data (invoices, bills, declarations, letters and certificates), a high daily volume of transactions that require same-day processing, complex business processes and the need to interface with multiple core systems. Through RPA, they were able to reduce the number of full-time staff required to perform the end-to-end process from 110 to 47.
- Virgin Trains used cognitive RPA to automatically refund customers for late-running trains. When a customer email arrives, it uses a language processing tool to read and understand the email then categorizes and recognizes key information in order to service the customer quickly. Beginning with perceiving the customer’s issue to issuing refunds, the company was able to automate the entire process and reduce processing time as well as manual labor by 85%.
RPA’s Implication on Workforce
With more and more organizations looking to implement RPA, concerns about job elimination naturally arise. However, if organizations looking to adapt to RPA address these concerns early on, they will be able to alleviate these hesitations and concerns. It will take a lot of effort from the leadership team in order to adapt to this new process responsibly.
Bots can only perform tasks with clear-cut rules. This means that processes that require human judgment within complex scenarios—for example, complex claims processing—cannot be automated through RPA alone. Rather than focusing on RPA as an opportunity to reduce costs via labor reduction, enterprises should instead focus on opportunities it provides to redesign jobs and appoint their employees to higher-value roles that focus more on customer service, problem-solving and the actual implementation, management and maintenance of the RPA programs.
Leaders should focus on cross-training or additional training of operation workers who might be displaced because of RPA. Says CGI Innovation Director Danny Wootton, “We see RPA changing the type of activities our people work on, by automating many of the repetitive tasks, freeing up time for more value add activities [and] ultimately providing our people more interesting and involving roles.”
Like every other technological shifts we have seen, adapting to RPA will see significant organization changes. Organizations must prepare its leaders to set the right tone so that employees and management teams alike will embrace this new technology and feel secure in their roles. Partnering with tech-savvy providers such as Infinit-O can help your business. Click here to learn more.