The amalgamation of software robots (bots), artificial intelligence, and machine learning capabilities to perform high-volume, repetitive tasks in an organization, which were earlier performed by humans, is called Robotic Process Automation (RPA), or simply robot automation. These are mostly clerical tasks in large organizations.
In RPA technology, the software robot watches the human worker’s list of actions on the graphical user interface and then mimics it in the same order on the worker’s graphical user interface. This way, the RPA bots can log on to a computer or application, enter data, repeat the actions performed by the human worker, complete the task and log out.
Types of Robot Automation
Currently, RPA technologies are divided into three broad categories — probots, knowbots & chatbots.
- Probots can perform simple but repeatable list of actions.
- Knowbots can search the internet, gather, and store information.
- Chatbots can act as a virtual chatting agent who responds to customer’s queries in real-time.
Implementation of RPA software does not require bringing about a change in a company’s existing IT infrastructure or systems. How robot automation is different from IT automation is its ability to understand and adapt to new situations, exceptions and changing circumstances. Once it has been trained to interpret specific processes, it can do a set of things autonomously like triggering responses, manipulating data, and communicating with other systems.
Benefits of RPA
- Robot automation can help an organization in its digital transformation initiative by:
- Providing better customer service
- Making business operations & processes stick to norms and standards
- Completing processes more rapidly
- Digitizing & auditing process data with more efficiency
- Making manual & repetitive tasks more cost-effective
- Freeing up employees for more productive work
How robot automation can help big organizations?
Providing efficient and prompt customer service: RPA can take the load off the contact center functions of a company such as verification of documents and e-signature, uploading of scanned documents, performing automatic approval or rejection after verification of documents. RPA technology can be deployed in following functional areas:
- Accounting: RPA can be used in all spheres of an organization’s accounting processes including operational and transactional budgeting and reporting.
- Financial services: RPA can be used in a big way to offer financial services such as making foreign exchange payments, automated account opening and closing, processing insurance claims, and managing audit requests.
- Healthcare: Healthcare organizations can employ RPA to handle claims, patient records, customer support, billing, reporting, analytics, and account management.
- Human resources: RPA can help HR dept by performing many routine tasks such as onboarding and offboarding, processing leave applications, and updating employee information.
- Supply chain management: Robot automation can carry out many of the functions in supply chain management such as automating payments and order processing, tracking shipments, and monitoring inventory levels.
Arguably, robot automation has a much bigger scope and application than IT automation in not only performing many labor-intensive tasks in an organization more efficiently but also in cutting down costs on such processes and functions. It can also increase the productivity of the organization by bringing more efficiency. As it tends to minimize the role of human workers in repetitive and tedious functions, the employees thus freed up from mundane clerical jobs can be put to better use.
Downside of RPA technology
However, there are critics of robot automation who think RPA technology can leave a large number of the workforce redundant. The knowledge workforce likes to work with the RPA technology as it expedites some of the time-consuming processes and also minimizes errors. The critics of RPA technology argue that it will lead to massive job losses across industries and sectors. A large number of the workforce offers clerical and basic services and the widespread use of RPA technology will make all those roles redundant. There have been studies on the subject in leading universities and some are still underway. These studies highlight how robot automation has drastically altered the employment scene while at the same time bringing efficiency and productivity to an organization. The concern that it will lead to the loss of employment is a recurring theme of most of the studies on the subject.
For big organizations having a lot of repetitive functions, RPA technology is a wonderful solution that takes the load off the human workers and allows a combination of the latest computer technologies to perform the same task with greater speed and efficiency. This is an amazing technological advancement with far-reaching implications. One of those implications is about job losses and the HR departments in big companies will have to address this concern before they can use RPA to its full potential.