While we are still enjoying the contributions of the digital revolution or third industrial revolution, we are already at the dawn of another dizzying expansion of technology, the fourth industrial revolution. The digital revolution has changed the way we live, work and communicate. It has transformed the economy, the company, the workplace, in short, the world and society.
Mobile devices, the Internet, cloud computing and data analytics were the main technologies driving the digital revolution. Today, the Internet of Things (IoT), low-cost computing, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, the proliferation of algorithms and artificial intelligence techniques… are generating prototypes, products and systems that a few years ago we only imagined or saw in futuristic films: autonomous vehicles, virtual assistants that we mistake for people, cyber-physical systems that control electrical grids, infrastructures or manufacturing processes… In addition, and as one of the most accessible and consolidated technologies, software robots that mimic human actions creating what we call “virtual workforce”.
In its early days, robotizing was primarily using software to mimic the actions a person performs at his or her workstation. Robots employ the user interface of systems to capture data and operate existing applications in the same way that people do. It is a non-intrusive technology that has a minimal impact on existing systems and that any company, regardless of its IT architecture, can use to automate repetitive processes that respond to rules, to a business logic.
Today the symbiosis between robotization and cognitive technologies: artificial intelligence, text recognition and analytics, natural language processing, machine learning… makes it possible to create “intelligent robots” that replicate human capabilities: they “perceive” images, sounds, spoken language, texts, “understand” what they perceive, by means of patterns that distinguish contexts, “act” by deciding actions and “learn” from their mistakes and successes. Cognitive robotization creates jobs where human and software robot capabilities complement each other by leveraging human ingenuity and creativity. They are efficient workplaces that free up time for useless tasks so that this useless time can be devoted to serving customers, designing and developing new plans, discovering opportunities… in short, generating value. Robotization democratizes the use of artificial intelligence and applies it in a pragmatic way to common tasks such as reviewing a text to search for a piece of information or a concept, locating an object by consulting different web portals, analyzing historical data (orders, sales, visits, device temperatures, etc.), discovering customer behavior, etc.
The design and implementation of an individual robot is a task that, depending on the difficulty of the process, can be completed in a few days or a few weeks. But the comprehensive robotization of a company is an ambitious, extensive and transformative project that changes the ways of doing and managing. Often, the journey to automation begins with a simple proof of concept, developing a first robot so that the company “understands” the new technology and its possibilities. In each management area there are many processes that can be automated, but priority should be given to those that have a better ROI, or those that substantially improve a service or the capacity and quality of management of a work center.
It is highly recommended that a robotization project follows an optimal and staggered path. This route is defined by detecting the most relevant automation opportunities, prioritizing these opportunities with a multi-criteria analysis that considers the impacts on productivity and quality, as well as the positioning of the process in the workflow. The returns on investment achieved sometimes make it possible to define self-financing projects in which the savings generated by the first robots pay for the successive ones.
The correct and complete detection of automatable processes becomes complicated when there is a lack of knowledge, dispersion or opacity. We find companies with departments that enthusiastically encourage and promote robotization and other departments that reject it. Detecting and qualifying automatable processes is a consulting exercise that requires experience and a specialized methodology. To facilitate this task, process mining tools automatically detect processes, model them and accurately assess the impact of their automation. The near future of these tools points to automatic generation of robot code. Although at first sight this function may seem ambitious and complex, it will certainly simplify development work.
Some commercial approaches present robotization as a very simple technology, requiring little more than brief training. This message is wrong and harms the drive for robotization. It generates false expectations and failed projects. The automation of a simple, isolated process is accessible to any technician with basic training, but the robotization of a company requires extensive experience and in-depth knowledge in a variety of disciplines and technologies that only a multidisciplinary team can guarantee.
Devol is a company specialized solely and exclusively in robotization. Devol’s professionals form a multidisciplinary team in continuous training, bringing together the skills to provide all the services of the life cycle of an automation project. At Devol we believe that robotization is a technology that is here to stay and that the most efficient companies will be those that support the talent of their workforce with the intelligence of a virtual workforce.