By Tim Mercer, CEO of Vapour
For many organisations – particularly SMEs – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is unchartered territory. Some fear RPA will take jobs away from deserving employees, others fear the expense of implementing it and a lot of people simply don’t trust ‘robots’, thanks in part to what they see in the movies. But we must overcome these worries to realise the full potential of automation at work.
I am glad to see the narrative finally being rewritten in a recent article in The Times to welcome the rise of the ‘Cobot’ – where employees and robotics work together in a more automated environment to improve workforce efficiency.
This is a term I have come to love as it stands for everything RPA should be – collaborative and complementary.
To further this new way of working, I am going to debunk some of the common misconceptions around robotics and RPA in a hope that more businesses, of all sizes, will take hold of this opportunity…
Robots will replace humans at work, leading to mass unemployment
When thinking about robots, you might be imagining a human-like form with the ability to take over the world or perhaps a large clunky looking machine on the factory floor. Both are as terrifying as each other when paired with the idea that they are here to replace us and take our jobs, leaving many unemployed. But this simply isn’t the case.
Robots have been developed to help humans. The laborious, manual tasks which take people twice as long are better served by machines so valuable workers can put their skills to effective use elsewhere. There may not be as many jobs in traditional lines of work, such as manufacturing, but there are plenty of roles in sectors like technology and engineering that need skilled people to work in automated environments.
As more robots are created and the tech progresses, more jobs will follow.
Robots are extremely expensive
They may have been 10 years ago, but advancements in R&D have significantly reduced the cost of robot development.
Traditionally large robots were used in factories to make the production line more efficient, but these machines were very expensive to install and maintain, meaning many companies weren’t using them. That’s why robotics companies are now focused on building smaller and cheaper machines which work alongside people and automate parts of a process, rather than replacing the worker altogether. Again, this reinforces the fact that robots are not here to remove us from the workplace.
A number of physical robotic machines are now built using 3D printing, a cheaper and easier way to manufacture them, which means they are more accessible for many businesses. And then there are the ‘robots’ which we specialise in, of course, which utilise AI, machine learning and even simple business improvement to drive improved efficiencies and service levels. From chat bots to machine agents, these RPA solutions are process-driven, and ‘invisible,’ so require great tech to bring them to life.
Robots are smarter than humans
Of course, robots are intelligent, we created them to be so. But you cannot deny the power of human interaction and empathetic communication. This is something that robots cannot replace in the workplace.
Instead of thinking of them as smarter, let’s use them as a tool to do the things we cannot and better our service to customers. Our project for a vast contact centre is a great example of this, in action.
RPA is only used on the factory line
This could not be further from the truth. As mentioned before, in the past robotics was mostly used in factory settings to automate a physical production line. However, now, automation can be found everywhere – especially in the digital era. From retail shops to offices, RPA is helping millions of employees to do their job every day.
By implementing RPA effectively, all sorts of organisations can boost productivity, improve customer service, and reduce risk of human error in areas which cannot afford mistakes. Think insurance documentation, for example, and legal paperwork, we’ve also seen some great deployments of RPA in low margin, high volume e-commerce environments which need tech to help them work ever-smartly to yield profit. RPA can completely overhaul end-to-end processes in all lines of business.
Only large enterprises can afford to use RPA
When people think of robotics, a significant price stamp immediately comes to mind – one that only large enterprises could afford. But RPA is much more accessible now than ever before. There are numerous services out there for reasonable prices that can help organisations of all sizes automate manual and time-consuming processes – much like our own RPA solutions which are always engineered to a specific budget. We also work with businesses to ensure they are getting the best out of their RPA technology and making a significant difference to workforce fulfillment – this way, the conversation soon turns to ROI, rather than expense.
By pushing these misconceptions aside, it’s clear RPA can unleash a business’s full potential. Robots should no longer be considered something to fear but something to benefit, support and assist our employees. Why do we have to choose between robot or human? Why can’t we work alongside each other, using RPA to our advantage to get the best out of our teams.
Let employees do the real ‘people’ work, while RPA takes care of the rest.