Business Today

Robots at work

Keshav R. Murugesh   Delhi     Print Edition: January 15, 2017
Robots at work

We enjoy reminiscing about good old days, those happy memories of carefree school and college days. While we commit the happy moments to our memory, we tend to leave out the not-sohappy ones. Like how a letter used to take 10-15 days to reach its destination. Or how you had to call up the airport to enquire about the departure status of your flight and were lucky if somebody answered the phone. Or a good day was one in which the queue at the bank was short and the loan application moved from one desk to the other. Lurking behind the romance of those early memories are the frustrations of slow, unproductive days.

Keshav R. Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS Global Services and Chairman, NASSCOM BPM Council, says combining robotics with human intelligence can produce results that were considered impossible earlier.

Today, whether it's courier delivery, processing of a loan application or response from a service provider, speed is a key factor that we customers use to evaluate service quality. Another determinant is accuracy.

As the market continues to move towards faster service and better products, businesses are embarking on a quest for continuous improvement in efficiency and productivity in factories, farms and offices. It is this continuous pursuit of improvement that has been the central theme in human progress over the decades. This has led us to use robotics in our work.

NEW USES

As the market continues to move towards faster service and better products, businesses are embarking on a quest for continuous improvement in efficiency and productivity in factories, farms and offices. It is this continuous pursuit of improvement that has been the central theme in human progress over the decades. This has led us to use robotics in our work.

The trend is making us explore new areas where robots can be used. Amazon, which is setting new standards in the logistics market, is combining human capabilities with robotics in its warehouses to shrink delivery schedules and ensure 100 per cent delivery accuracy. It can now deliver an order within one-two hours in several US cities, a feat it has achieved largely due to robots working alongside human beings in its warehouses.

One of the most fascinating instances of the use of software robots was by The Washington Post. The newspaper used a robot reporter along with its team of sports reporters to enhance its coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Readers got regular updates posted by the software robot using basic sports data whereas the reporters wrote analytical articles and in-depth features.

ADDING TO EFFORT

A hot button in the Business Process Management (BPM)industry these days is the fear of robots taking over jobs. We often hear discussions on how BPM companies are taking people off the rolls and using robots instead. But these fears are mostly unfounded. First, robots have been around for a long time and, second, they are being used for a limited purpose.

The roles for which software robots are being used are manual, low-end and low-skill tasks that are repetitive in nature. Humans are prone to making errors when doing these tasks. Today's use of robotics in BPM follows a similar trend as in farms and factories a few decades ago. When mechanisation and robotics were introduced in farms and factories, they took over the heavy lifting so that human beings could concentrate on value-enhancing tasks. Today, Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, a set of software-based automation tools, is handling tasks that are dull and repetitive so that BPM employees can move to tasks that pay well and add more value to the customer. Machines and people complement each other and produce better results.

If a job is governed by rules and does not involve judgement - for instance processing a loan application on the basis of strict criteria - it is best done by robots.

Throughout history, human progress has made certain jobs obsolete and produced other jobs that allow people to put their skills to better use.

The RPA has been used by a retail bank in Dubai and the results have been phenomenal. The bank made a commitment to process loan and credit card applications within a day but was unable to honour it. RPA reduced the time taken to complete the 40-45 step process from 45 minutes to 12 minutes. More important, by ensuring zero error in calculating the applicant's eligibility, it greatly reduced risks for the client.

Another example is from the airline industry where one of the biggest sources of revenue loss is the manual fare auditing process. RPA solutions automate the process, validate the data and capture the complete audit trail for future references. All these processes are done without human intervention, eliminating errors and reducing revenue leakage.

Throughout history, human progress has made certain jobs obsolete and produced other jobs that allow people to put their skills to better use. Today, by combining the capabilities that robotics offers with human intelligence and power of judgement, we are able to produce results that were considered impossible earlier. By acquiring new skills, employees who were doing manual, low-skilled tasks now have the opportunity to get paid more and find higher job satisfaction.

Youtube
  • Print

  • COMMENT
BT-Story-Page-B.gif
A    A   A
close