Will COVID-19 Drive Increased Demand for Software Robotics?
April 29, 2020
Adapting work, school, and home life in the wake of a global pandemic has many of the world’s citizens living in what feels like a state of constant disruption. Workdays don’t feel normal when individuals are isolated or there are children, pets, and partners contending for time and space in a confined environment 24/7.
When offices and business reopen and work resumes, there is widespread speculation that it won’t be a return to “business as usual.” Organizations are indicating that considerations are underway to enable more positions to be permanently remote. Utilizing video conferencing has become a viable alternative to attendance at in-person meetings, and workspaces may need to be configured to support some form of social distancing between employees.
Strengthening technological infrastructure to underpin each of these considerations will be at the heart of organizations’ roadmaps, with significant overlaps in the areas of human resources/workforce planning, business continuity planning (BCP), and IT innovation. One already emerging area of IT innovation at the center of supporting an organization’s ability to adapt in response to this pandemic is robotic process automation (RPA), a specific subset of artificial intelligence (AI).
Artificial intelligence’s immunity to the interruption we are experiencing during this pandemic makes it ideal as a supplemental support of processes and workflows. In addition, it may be integral to keeping the human workforce safer as we seek our own immunity to COVID-19. Below, we explore how RPA responded to the challenge of empowering healthcare personnel and systems to stay responsive while overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases and how its future role in offering support and safety for workers of any industry is on the horizon.
RPA’s COVID-19-related Emergence
RPA companies, including UI Path (a leading RPA consultancy with whom BGRS partnered with in determining our internal RPA program’s overall design), are offering the support of their technology to healthcare workers battling COVID-19.
For one hospital in Ireland, UI Path’s free RPA trial has granted nurses more time to spend with patients. Data from patient testing is now automated through RPA technology to communicate results faster than before, saving the department an approximate two business days each week in information handling.
Such time savings is not uncommon and is characteristic of RPA deployment. From our own experience with RPA, when implemented in the area of broker selection, the delivery of the broker information to the mobile employee was accelerated by 50%, enabling BGRS’s consultants to spend more time personally guiding mobile employees.
UI Path has so far documented dozens of its RPA use cases and successes across the healthcare industry alone.
RPA has also assisted businesses in protecting their employees in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. For one organization, the company used RPA to track data points of their employees (e.g., recent travel, commute paths on public transportation coinciding with areas heavy in COVID-19 cases) in order to automatically assign a risk level of COVID-19 exposure. This enabled the company to make quick and informed decisions (e.g., asking certain employees to self-quarantine) to safeguard their workforce and their customers.
For those businesses involved in recycling, there has been a COVID-19-inspired interest in placing robots in a lineup with their employees in order to respect social distancing. The robotics can be programmed to sort recyclable goods traveling down the belt while creating distance between the company’s employees performing the same task.
Rooted in efforts to combat coronavirus, to increase realization of RPA’s value, and to secure the future interest of developers and innovators, RPA companies, including UI Path, are also offering:
- Free trials, funding, and assistance to healthcare organizations
- Free online trainings for developing bot-building skills
- Scholarships for developing COVID-19-related solutions
RPA’s Role Post-Pandemic
While RPA has been increasingly adopted by companies worldwide to bring dramatic efficiencies to business processes’ execution, ultimately, RPA’s deployment across industries will keep us safer by:
- Allowing physical distancing of workforces, whether that be through supporting the new conditions to manage processes with employees now working remotely or serving as a partition by operating between employees standing side-by-side in factories or laboratories
- Enabling professionals to better focus on their core competencies (e.g., healthcare workers can treat more patients when RPA assists to complete administrative paperwork)
- Providing companies the foundation to take BCP-related action promptly in unexpected situations to protect their workforces
- Eliminating errors in healthcare forms and speeding up the ability to serve patients, decreasing time spent on intake processes and form-filling
In addition to managing opportunities to deploy RPA within our business to empower our workforce to deliver a safer and more personalized experience, BGRS will continue to monitor the presence — and expected surge — of RPA across all industries as we recover globally from this pandemic.