Away from the movies, robots are becoming a reality in everyday life.
Robots have played a major role in manufacturing industries to perform basic tasks that are either dangerous or laborious for humans. As technology becomes relatively cheaper – through the availability of components such as processors, sensors, batteries and cameras – robots are now making an entrance in industries apart from manufacturing, such as in marketing, inventory, telecommunications and entertainment.
Why Robotics in Business?
To avoid confusion, it’s important to mention at this point that robotics often refers to software configured to carry out tasks done by humans, so it’s not always about physical robots.
Businesses are under endless pressure to be more efficient and reduce costs. As a result, many are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to take up repetitive and routine tasks that don’t require frequent updates. RPA has been useful to take care of things such as call center operations, help desks, customer service chatbots, expense management, data entry, onboarding employees and scheduling systems, among other tasks that are repetitive, rule-based and structured.
This is important for businesses as it frees employees from mundane tasks so they can focus on high-value work.
The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic cannot be ignored as an accelerator for robotics in the business environment. Consider businesses such as restaurants, retail stores and all others seeking alternatives that will withstand disruptions and at the same time are durable and adhere to hygienic operations.
An Exciting Yet Worrying Phenomena to Some
Many people accept the use of intelligent systems and small robots such as robotic vacuum cleaners. But when it comes to the workplace, employees often don’t accept such systems as they are considered threats to their jobs. However, there is little difference between the robot used for household aid and the intelligent production system.
Financial institutions have been on the frontline in implementing robotic process automation. This has enabled them to automate and build platforms for front office, back office and support functions. For a business, this means reduced costs while achieving efficiency and accuracy.
Another interesting concept is: robot as a service (RaaS). This is aimed at enabling small- and medium-sized businesses to enjoy the benefits of robotic process automation when they lease the services of a robot rather than incur the cost of purchasing one and handling maintenance for the system. It also helps businesses experiment with different robotic solutions.
With such innovations, businesses have no option but to adapt to the technological advances. As a matter of fact, the possibility of robots taking up full process tasks is feasible with big names such as Bill Gates voicing support for a robot tax (a levy on work done by robots in a bid to replace tax that collected from work done by humans).
So how do businesses handle this trend? Both employees and employers have no option but to be prepared. For an employer considering robotics, this should be done gradually with clear guidelines that the systems are only to assist and not replace the employees. At the same time, employees should be involved in the early stages of developing the new systems so they get accustomed to the format and avoid later resistance.
As businesses seek to improve their processes, employees should be ready to learn new skills as some duties are replaced by robots. It also goes way back to the education system, where students should be encouraged to take up subjects that will help enhance their digital competence. It will also prepare them for new job structures.
A Word of Caution
RPA has enabled business processes to evolve. Its results provide better accuracy, lower cost, efficiency and high productivity. However, entrepreneurs should not rush to implement the robotic process automation without proper research. Although it is praised to reduce labor costs and other benefits already mentioned, the implementation – if not well done – will fail.
A big mistake would be to assume that the installation of robotic systems is easy. This is especially true when a business concentrates on ROI rather than solving actual problems.
Robotics for businesses involves time, cost and complexity. It is not about moving processes into RPA as they are; only with lean techniques can this be successful.