How was RPA invented?
Humankind, for all of its history, looked for a way of making their work easier. Use of tools, the help of animals, and finally machines and automation, like RPA. We invented multiple ways of easing our lives.
What are the examples?
- Plowing the fields – firstly done by human hands. Then after inventing tools, still done with the use of the strength of muscles, but much more effortless. Next, humankind introduced cattle and horses to this work to help them not use their own power anymore. Finally, they introduced machines, like tractors, to do the work for them, and within those, sometimes people don’t even have to operate them manually, but instead, they do it from a distance, remotely, sometimes even controlling multiple machines at once.
- Building cars – years ago, to build a single vehicle, many people were needed. To attach one piece sometimes, even multiple people had to put their effort. Afterward, with the use of the steam engine, people managed to automate some of the operations. It enabled them to cut on the number of people necessary to build a car. These days thanks to specialized machines, even more work can be done without human hands. Moreover, humans are sometimes barely essential for building cars anymore.
- Third and the most vital examples – complex calculations. Thanks to inventing computers after just implementing a small amount of data, computers can calculate complex operations that even the best mathematicians would need numerous hours. What’s more, the chance for them to commit mistakes in comparison to humans is insignificant. Finally, it enabled things not possible before, like space travel.
The very age of computers has accelerated the way we work. They created new opportunities for further automation of our work. Today we work mainly with the use of various programs on the computer, which makes automating easier because we do not have to build robots, but only write a piece of script that will do the work for us.
What is RPA?
RPA or Robotic Process Automation is a method of automating and optimizing processes using software robots. RPA mimics human behavior to perform a sequence of steps leading to a specific activity without human intervention.
When we say robots, we don’t mean some kind of super-efficient, human-like material robots that will lift weights for us or cook our dinner. Instead, we are talking more about a program, algorithm installed on a computer or in the cloud that performs pre-planned actions to do part of our task and support us.
RPA can do the same things on a computer that regular employees do, but faster and with no errors. While doing that, robots use just the same tools and programs they do. For example, it can use excel, send emails, extract files, or use websites.
To understand the RPA process, let’s look at automation in the accounting department, comparing robot vs human.
The upper icon shows how much time these actions would take the robot to accomplish, and the lower icon shows how long it would take for a human employee.
As you see, robots are suitable for processes that are simple and repetitive. For more complex or creative tasks, it’s not possible yet to automate them. Robots are suited to support humans and help them get boring tasks done.
The above example seems trivial, but we must remember that automation helps us eliminate simple tasks – time-consuming and time-sensitive. Let’s see two examples.
Maybe you have encountered a situation where a bank transaction was blocked at some point in your life. A bank representative called you and said it had been blocked because some strange transactions had been made. If you did not do it, you are glad that the bank stopped it.
Only, it was not the employee but the robot that decided that this transaction seemed suspicious. Robots in banks monitor millions of transactions within an hour – it’s not feasible for humans.
One of the monotonous tasks is entering invoices into the system, especially when we need to write down data from paper versions. Thanks to recognizing the image, robots can automatically collect scanned documents, extract contractor data and the amount from them, enter them in the system, and send a report to the appropriate people at the very end of work.
In this way, accounting employees, instead of entering data and completing excel, prepare analyzes that the management board will use to manage the company.
Where can I implement RPA?
Implementation of robots is possible for a vast number of dull, repetitive tasks. But not all of them can be or are worth automating. Therefore, you should go with the three 5’s rule while choosing what operations you should automate.
- Automate only those operations that would demand from you 5 or fewer decisions.
- Implement RPA only when for a specific action you need less than 5 apps or less.
- And finally, make use of robots only when you need less than 500 clicks to accomplish the task.
RPA is sexy
Automation is one of the hottest topics of the 21st century. However, the vast majority of companies in Europe are already automating processes.
30% of firms have their processes fully automated in at least one subsidiary, and the next 45% are in the process of piloting automation in at least one subsidiary or are planning to do so next year (Source: Driving impact at scale from automation and AI. McKinsey & Co. 2019. N=493)
It means that ONLY 25% of companies in Europe don’t implement automation and don’t plan on it. These companies and people who strictly don’t want to implement automation in their work have a risk of staying behind the competition and losing the market in the future because of lower effectiveness.
How does the process of implementing RPA look in real life?
Let’s see it based on one of our clients from the logistics market.
Will Robots take our place?
Each one of us should learn (better sooner than later) how to automate our work and what benefits it brings. That’s the future.
But how much of our jobs can we automate and fully swap with the human workforce?
In around 60% of jobs, up to 30% of tasks can be automated.
At the same time, less than 5% of jobs can be fully automated. These jobs are somewhat manual roles like package sorters, machine operators, etc.
As you see, chances of us being replaced with robots are relatively small, but for sure, they will bring a total change in the culture of work and business in general.
It will bring change in the business model and a shift in specialization. More efficiency = fewer people needed to do the job.
It will change the way companies grow, and employees work – companies will eliminate repetitive tasks and focus on using employees’ skills to operate on the robots’ effects of work.
We won’t get our remuneration for clicks fast anymore. Instead, we will get money for how much we have learned in university, how well we specialize in our branch, and how we can use the info we obtain. This is the best example of using higher brain power – employees now can prove themselves and do things they prepared for in college.
The world is changing fast, and we need to choose wisely what we will do.
As you see, robots are not as scary as people might think. They are not our substitute but our support. They ought to make our lives easier and jobs friendlier.
If you want to learn more about RPA, check out how we help with AnyRobot to automate tasks here.