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Can a robot be sustainable?

By making a robot or digital assistant do the most repetitive and boring tasks, companies can focus on more meaningful and value-adding work – benefiting both business and society. So, can the effect of a robot also support companies in being more sustainable?

Can a robot be sustainable?
The sustainable robot

Written by Louise Lindberg and Ken Graham

Repetitive tasks – not only are they boring and tiring, but also when an operation has been done maybe hundreds of times the same day, one becomes less attentive and observative for errors. In addition, working at a high speed for an entire workday is usually not feasible. Imagine there was a solution to reduce stress among employees during periods when an administrative production has high demands, at the end of the month for a payroll department, or during evenings and nights when fewer people are working.

Robotics, or Robotic Process Automation (RPA), is a piece of software that is executing the exact same tasks like a human. The robot logs into systems with its own username and password and can, for example, click on buttons, copy + paste information from one system to another, communicate with different systems and write emails to customers if the robot found a customer errand requiring their correction. The Robot can also read from a database and send and receive information via APIs

The core of robotics

Compared to a human, the robot will execute the exact same process steps every time, only much faster and hence, there is no risk for “human errors”.

Robotics has several advantages. By making a robot or digital assistant do the most repetitive and boring tasks, employees can focus on more value-adding and meaningful work. Moreover, since a robot can work 24/7 without any coffee breaks or chats with colleagues, the efficiency naturally increases remarkably.

Except for reducing the time spent on manual processes, Visma’s goal with automation is to improve the customer experience of our products and help our customers focus on their core business.

How do robots and sustainability correlate? 

Automation of processes frees capacity and gives room to reassign roles and allocate resources to other, more important tasks in the organisation. Simply put, your employees can focus on the core business instead of administration work. For organisations, the fundamental benefits of automation are enhanced productivity and reduced costs, which ultimately benefits the bottom line. However, cost savings can be reallocated and rather invested in work that is more meaningful and produces higher business- and social value.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • A school reduces manual labour in the economy function. The saved money is used to hire new teachers to increase the quality of education. 
  • A hospital reduces manual labour for controlling claims. The saved money is used to hire new nurses to reduce patient queues.
  • A production firm reduces manual work in the billing department. The saved money is used to increase the innovation department.
  • An IT company reduces manual work in the salary department. The saved time is spent to handle new customers. 

These are great examples illustrating that a robot itself is not sustainable, but the effect of the robot can help a company reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Also read: AV1 – A robot specifically developed for the classroom and school life

Will robots take my job?

Throughout history, there are multiple examples of how automation has made jobs easier and companies more efficient. Today, most farmers will use a tractor instead of horses to do farming. While Kodak, the well-known international company delivering manual photo products, disappeared overnight because of the shift to digital cameras. Other examples are stock trading or e-learning that has shifted from person-to-person to machine-to-person or machine-to-machine. 

Studies have predicted that many of us are at risk of losing our jobs in the future as a result of artificial intelligence and robotisation. For many, this creates uncertainty about their own work situation and will naturally question “will robots take my job?”. The answer is maybe. Robots will for sure take jobs, and the jobs with the least complicated, or most repetitive steps will be lost to robots first. Secondly, work consisting of being the “man in the middle”, where tasks involve punching data in several systems, will also be gone in the near future. 

On the other hand, there are many examples of existing professions that will remain and probably grow in the foreseeable future:

  • Health workers because of the elderly wave
  • Craftsmen to perform maintenance work
  • IT specialists for maintaining and developing computer systems

We will see many new jobs arising as well. Jobs that don’t exist today. Recent studies predict that artificial intelligence and robotisation will actually create more jobs than it will make redundant by 2020. (Gartner, 2018)

Also read: Anna the bot has found a job at the largest university in Norway

How can robotics create opportunities for my business? 

Visma has a big focus on automation, both Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning and Optimisation. We take our responsibility towards more sustainable development and create opportunities for us and our customers to become more efficient and improve their businesses.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact us at [email protected]

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