The deluge of stories about artificial intelligence and robots has sparked a renewed interest in the capacity of machines to work better, smarter and longer than humans. Fuelled by the well-publicised examples of smart systems winning gameshows and trouncing a world-champion in the notoriously complex game of Go, many businesses are considering the potential of automation. But away from the speculation about the capabilities of near-future AI and robots, what are the practical considerations for any firm thinking of going down the automation route? The first rather obvious question for a business to ask is whether it is technically feasible to automate a particular activity, or will be in the near future, according to the consultancy McKinsey. This question shouldn't be drawn too broadly, and should focus on individual aspects of a person's role rather than their job in its entirety.
Automation journeys are evolving with AI ML capabilities and better data management techniques. The automation of processes has advantages in many areas of business. Helping to create predictable success, like the autopilot technology on a plane has been perfect over many years and by decreasing the time that it takes to complete manual processes and removing the chance of human error. Automating processes also have the benefit of streamlining workflows. The largest gains can be achieved by automating very large or time-consuming processes.
The race is on to automate rote, repetitive tasks because organizational efficiency is a competitive weapon. Organizations successfully automating processes lower operational costs and increase the value of their human capital. Conversely, when the need for speed trumps a sound strategy, companies can lose valuable talent, waste money, annoy customers and assume other unnecessary risks. "Artificial intelligence (AI) combined with robotic process automation (RPA) are being touted as the magic elixir that will solve virtually any business process problem. But companies must first review their business processes to determine if they're worthwhile candidates for automation, " said Ted Rohm, senior ERP analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC).
We as a generation and mankind recently outlined a critical milestone in our progress. A robot was recently awarded the citizenship of a country. Robots and automation have broken the shackles of our imagination and have become a part of our reality. While we are still far away from realizing what we have managed to sell in science fiction movies, we are closer than ever. Robots and automation have, until now, allowed machines to act and work like humans.
The technical potential for automation differs dramatically across sectors and activities. As automation technologies such as machine learning and robotics play an increasingly great role in everyday life, their potential effect on the workplace has, unsurprisingly, become a major focus of research and public concern. The discussion tends toward a Manichean guessing game: which jobs will or won't be replaced by machines? In fact, as our research has begun to show, the story is more nuanced. While automation will eliminate very few occupations entirely in the next decade, it will affect portions of almost all jobs to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the type of work they entail. Automation, now going beyond routine manufacturing activities, has the potential, as least with regard to its technical feasibility, to transform sectors such as healthcare and finance, which involve a substantial share of knowledge work. McKinsey's Michael Chui explains how automation is transforming work.