Technology

The evolution of automation

Kindus explores how Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is changing the way we work.

One of the most exciting innovations in Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the advance of Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The emergence of business process automation technology is rapidly replacing traditional workflow automation tools. Kindus’ RPA team looks beyond the idea of machines replacing humans and work on the idea of humans and machines working in tandem as a mechanism for business growth.

Traditional workflow automation tools use application programming interfaces (APIs) to integrate different systems and rely on the developer having a good understanding of the target system. One of the main problems with traditional automation is that it can take months to implement – RPA can be implemented in as little as a few weeks. However, this does not mean that traditional automation will be made obsolete by RPA. It is still perfect for tasks that do not require advanced programming, such as simple calculations and linking one system to another. To use an analogy, just because cars have been invented, does not change the fact that walking to a destination is sometimes more appropriate.

Nevertheless, RPA is extremely beneficial in many circumstances. Rather than requiring application integration, RPA systems configure software, or a ‘bot’ to learn how to perform a task in the application’s graphical user interface (GUI). The RPA systems then perform the automation by repeating the task directly in the GUI. The main advantages of RPA, besides saving time, is its low cost and ease of implementation, as it requires no custom software or deep systems integration.

Perhaps its most controversial feature is how it can reduce staffing costs. In other words, there is a fear that automation will result in significant layoffs. Forrester Research have estimated that RPA software will threaten the livelihood of 230 million or more knowledge workers, roughly nine percent of the global workforce.[1] Such a statistic raises ethical concerns about automation in general.

Particularly since the Victorian period, the term ‘technological unemployment’ has been used to describe the way in which modern innovations have the potential to cause long-term unemployment. For example, the introduction of the power loom forced most handweavers out of business because they simply could not compete in terms of production. Whilst this undoubtedly had a short-term effect on unemployment, in the long run, mechanisation created more jobs. People were needed to build the machines, whilst a huge amount of manpower was employed in running the machines. The only difference was the scale that industry was now operating on.

In a sense, we can see similarities with RPA. Despite worries about significant layoffs, many of these workers will be redeployed to do more interesting work. After all, the ultimate goal of automation should be to reduce the menial tasks that humans have to perform. And like the Industrial Revolution, RPA will increase efficiency to a whole new level, which can only be seen as progress.

Although it might sound slightly dystopian, bots clearly have many advantages over a human in the way they work. They will never call in sick, can work 24/7 without needing a break, and can work at a speed roughly equivalent to three-full time humans. This technology is undoubtedly the future and cannot be ignored.

Kindus are working at the forefront of delivering this technology. With a team of over 300 developers we are capable of delivering the bespoke requirements of our clients. For more information on RPA, please visit the AI section of the website, or contact us here.

[1] https://www.cio.com/article/3236451/business-process-management/what-is-rpa-robotic-process-automation-explained.html.

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