Organizations around the world are turning to automation to become faster and more agile in the face of increased demand and rapidly changing environments. From managing high volumes of testing results to supporting the increased need in call centers to preparing and enabling a remote workforce, organizations are realizing the benefits of automating right now. Businesses are looking for solutions that will allow them to solve customer problems while also ensuring the safety of their workforce through appropriate social distancing measures.
“Crisis can be sort of a catalyst or can speed up changes that are on the way — it almost can serve as an accelerant,”
said Arun Sundararajan, an NYU Stern School of Business professor researching how digital technologies transform society. He believes a new tech paradigm will emerge after the pandemic recedes.
Fast forward to more recent times, the SARS pandemic of 2002-2004 catalyzed the meteoric growth of a then-small e-commerce company called Ali Baba and helped establish it at the forefront of retail in Asia. This growth was fueled by underlying anxiety around traveling and human contact, similar to what we see today with COVID-19.
Peter Xing, a keynote speaker and writer on emerging technologies and associate director in technology and growth initiatives at KPMG, would agree. Xing believes the coronavirus epidemic is presenting us with ample opportunities for increased automation and remote delivery of goods and services. “The upside right now is the burgeoning platform of the digital transformation ecosystem,” he said.
Though our current situation may force us into using more robots and automated systems sooner than we’d planned, it will end up saving us money and creating opportunities, Xing believes. He cited “fast-casual” restaurants (Chipotle, Panera, etc.) as a prime example.
The grocery industry is leaning more on automation to free up employees to deal with the crush of demand during the pandemic. Brain Corp, a San Diego company that makes software used in automated floor cleaners, said retailers were using the cleaners 13 percent more than they were just two months ago. The “autonomous floor care robots” are doing about 8,000 hours of daily work “that otherwise would have been done by an essential worker,” the company said.
UK’s National Health Service (NHS), in collaboration with Microsoft, is using Automation Anywhere’s AI-powered IQ bot to extract critical patient information to process COVID-19 cases with speed and accuracy for WHO.
In another example, with technology partner NetCraft, the Macao Anti-Epidemic Real-Time Interactive Map was built as a GPS-enabled dashboard using bots to collect relevant digital data and provide real-time information, including infection sites, hospital wait times, and local availability of masks.
The company’s bots are also helping remote employees of large hotel chains access data so they can help customers change reservations, thereby reducing wait times and maintaining customer satisfaction.
“Organizations are adapting automation so that remote employees can remain productive and businesses can maintain continuity. We are proud to support the efforts of frontline workers in essential services, such as government and healthcare, as well as other industries, while mobilizing the power of the RPA community to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mihir Shukla, CEO and co-founder, Automation Anywhere said in a statement.
Automation Anywhere said it has also created a $500,000 RPA scholarship fund for learning opportunities. This fund is meant for individuals looking to learn RPA skills to accelerate the development of COVID-19 solutions and they can apply for the scholarship through Automation Anywhere University.
Amid COVID-19, automation companies like Automation Anywhere and Ui Path have pre-configured health solutions.Ui Path’s Health screening Bot, an online health survey form to employees through WhatsApp or email and it would periodically notify those who have yet to fill in the survey.
Automation Anywhere’s Digital Workforce Health Status Manager helps employers understand the health, location, and work status of their workforce by contacting employees via SMS and prompting them to take a short survey. The anonymized and aggregated results are put on a dashboard and distributed to the designated leaders via email and also available to analyze using Bot Insights.
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