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Automation Journey

Chapter 7

Will RPA Technology Take Human Jobs?

Automation is everywhere, sparking fears that ‘robots’ are taking more and more jobs from humans. With industries such as healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, retail, and more embracing automation, it’s understandable that people are concerned for their jobs, which is why it’s important to educate people on the positive effect of RPA.

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Impact of automation

The impact of automation doesn’t have to cost people their jobs. In fact, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can aid labor augmentation, complementing the human workforce and helping to boost productivity and efficiency. In short, RPA technology will not take human jobs. How do we know? History tells us so.

A history of automation

Automation has always been a part of the way people do things. Even the earliest civilizations thought about how they could automate repetitive actions and tasks.

As early as the 3rd century BCE, the ancient Greeks and Arabs built simple machines to automatically keep track of the passage of time. Over the centuries, automation became more widespread and sophisticated.

One of the biggest examples of automation occurred during the Industrial Revolution. This was a time of vast improvements in the automation of simple tasks in the manufacturing and textiles industries.

From the cotton gin to the steam engine, efficiency and productivity greatly improved with the automation that came during the Industrial Revolution. But what happened to the people who previously did these things by hand?

Even during the Industrial Revolution, there were many people who thought automation would lead to a severe lack of jobs and economic collapse. However, progress gave way to automation anyway.

History has shown that these skeptics were mistaken. Economists conclude that automation during the Industrial Revolution allowed people to focus on other tasks that couldn't be automated.

Some people couldn't do the same things they were doing before, but they found other ways to contribute.

History of robotics

The Industrial Revolution isn't the only example from history that shows the benefits of automation. Everyone knows about the progression of mechanical and electronic computers during and after World War II.

Before these, however, the term "computer" referred to a person who did calculations by hand. So, what happened to these people when these calculations became automated?

Many of the people who previously did computations by hand learned how to build and operate the new mechanical and electronic computers.

As the computer industry exploded over the next few decades, the demand for jobs surpassed the number of jobs taken up by people who did computations by hand.

However, even during this sharp rise in the computer industry, the concept of a robot and Artificial Intelligence (AI) was still foreign to most people. Throughout most of the 20th century, robots were confined to science fiction stories about a possible future.

In fact, the term ‘robot’ even comes from a science fiction play written in 1920. However, the word robot has changed a lot since then. It has come to mean any machine that can perform repetitive tasks.

In addition, robots are now everywhere, from movies to videos of real robots built in a lab.

What can RPA do?

Now that we've looked at some of the history behind robotics and automation technology, let's look at robotic process automation.

Normally, when you think of a robot, it's something physical. It's a machine that moves around and does simple tasks.

However, the robotic part of RPA refers to RPA software. It is completely digital.

Robotic software in RPA controls the same applications that people use for their everyday work. That could mean working with spreadsheets, or inventory-control systems, or various websites.

The RPA software can be assigned their own virtual computer and their own login credentials to follow processes that have been defined by people and assigned to the robot. Processes can be simple to very complex and involve many applications.

RPA software can follow processes for any part of the business, like accounts, finance, operations, HR, customer service, IT, and more. With such versatility, many organizations have built automation programs that span the entire company to get the most benefit.

But RPA is not just limited to following basic processes. It can incorporate AI and machine learning to transform RPA into truly intelligent automation.

The advanced power of AI can support advanced decision-making while machine learning can understand how people make decisions and process information and then apply this understanding to bring new insights about customers and transaction patterns.

Will RPA and AI mean the end of human jobs? No, it allows people to innovate through more meaningful work, while software robots take on the task of automating repetitive business processes that humans don’t like to do in the first place.

People can now focus on the business itself to help build a better customer experience, tackle a new market, or provide new solutions that add value to their business.

Will RPA take human jobs?

The question of whether or not RPA systems will take jobs away from real people is important to consider. After all, this is a genuine concern among human workforces worldwide.

If your organization is considering using RPA tools, you may be thinking about how implementing RPA could affect your employees. However, bearing in mind the historical examples of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of automation within the computer industry, RPA can help to elevate people to a new way of working.

One of the many benefits of RPA is that it allows employees to focus on tasks that require ingenuity instead of doing repetitive work all the time.

For example, without RPA, someone might have to open an email and transfer data into a spreadsheet. With RPA, however, this can all be done automatically.

This leaves more time for employees to handle things that can't be done automatically and allows digital and human workers to work together to improve the business. Plus, RPA helps to improve customer service and triggers huge cost savings.

Ultimately, RPA is not meant to replace human workers. In fact, it’s designed to make the working day easier for humans and in many cases changes the work that people do.

Is RPA right for your organization?

Having covered some of the history of automation and robotics, plus the potential impact on the human workforce, it’s safe to say that RPA is helping to unleash a new way of working for organizations and employees. RPA is driving a digital transformation that is giving people time back, which would have otherwise been spent doing mundane, repetitive tasks.

RPA is helping people work smarter not harder, allowing for innovation and creativity that had been lost to less meaningful work.

Additionally, rather than taking jobs away from people, RPA allows people to focus on tasks and processes that can't be automated. This will increase efficiency and productivity.

One of the key benefits of RPA is that it’s easy to implement for rules based processes. Unlike conventional projects to integrate different applications, RPA projects take weeks or months rather than years. This is because organizations do not have to replace legacy applications or install giant new systems. Instead, RPA captures data from existing applications.

There are many pros and cons of RPA, but if you think RPA systems might be right for you, please contact us to find out how we can help to improve the efficiency and productivity of your business or visit our center of excellence for more information.


About the Author

Michael Marchuk

As a VP of strategic advisory at SS&C Blue Prism, Michael Marchus helps business leaders reimagine their workforce, operations and customer experiences. With over three decades of hands-on industry experience and an unwavering passion for solving real-world cases, Michael is your ultimate strategic partner to build the enterprise of the future – with a digital workforce empowered by AI, cloud and RPA.

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Next: Chapter 8

How To Get Started With Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

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