Will robots take away our jobs?
A holistic perspective how Robotic Process Automation would affect the Service Industry jobs
By Prabhakar MN ( https://in.linkedin.com/in/prabhakar-mn-a1196840 )
Speaking of robots reminds us of Science Fiction movies like Terminator, Matrix and the likes. But however, I’m writing here about Robotic Process Automation which is different from Science fiction. Movies definitely have the thrill factor built in. Real life is far away from such movies. In this short article, I attempt to give a quick overall view of how it may affect the job industry.
(image taken from theterminatorfans.com)
Learning from History
I believe that Robotic Process Automation didn’t start recently, and that it’s the result of continuous evolution in IT. Back in 2000, I noticed a small automation that was being implemented in Computers. i.e. the Operating system updates were being done manually by a Technician. This later got automated as “auto script” which the Server automatically would install after the computer reboots. One could easily postulate that the contract-staff who were doing the manual updates didn’t have their contracts renewed. But is this the case? Not so, because this also added new jobs to the script writers of automatic updates. These script writers or developers need testers, team leaders, Project managers, HR partners, Patent application teams and the entire ecosystem. Let us keep this in mind when assessing a major change.
What is RPA?
The Wikipedia explanation for RPA is as follows: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robotic_process_automation
A software 'robot' is a software application that replicates the actions of a human being interacting with the user interface of a computer system. For example, the execution of data entry into a SAP system - or indeed a full end-to-end business process - would be a typical activity for a software robot
Since the audience of this article might not be from a technical background, I will also attempt to simplify the technical jargons so that every reader would understand:
In simple words, Automation in Services can be done at 3 levels (although in reality it may vary)
On e, On one end of the spectrum we have Excel macros, PowerBI etc. which would help us with Basic levels. We have tools like uiPath, Automation anywhere, Blueprism etc. as we move higher up in the levels.
With respect to the careers in RPA, I’ve again simplified the various job roles that would be there in a company where RPA solutions are developed. In simple words, these are different job roles (actual situation would vary):
Let me also draw a parallel here. Look at the manufacturing industry, especially Automotive / FMCG companies. We see a huge scale of automation using Industrial robots, manufacturing transfer lines. These have been made possible by technology i.e. PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), SCADA (Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition), DCS, CNC and so on. The question to ask here is, did any workers lose the jobs? Or were more jobs created? We would definitely require Installation & Maintenance Engineers for these robotic systems. Who would manage the Sales & Distribution of systems? Who would manufacture these robots? Who would do regular upgrades or innovation? How many more people would get employed in factories where these Industrial robots are manufactured? How many HR, Legal, Finance employees would get employed due to these new companies? The list goes on & on
Finally my opinion is,
If there is a major change happening, this change should not be looked locally. In fact this change should be looked at as society-ecosystem as a whole. If anyone is worried Robotic Process Automation would take away jobs. Eg: In a backend email reply process, the worry would be misplaced when it is viewed locally. Overall, there would be a need of Code Developers, System Architects, Consultants, Project Managers, Client Services Personnel and the entire eco-system of HR, Legal, and Finance etc. So, that’s what the idea of technology should be. It should make our jobs easier, and further create new jobs.
Any company or industry, has to keep in pace with the technological advancement, else the cost of becoming 'obsolete' would go high. Hence the organization has to upskill its resource consistently in sync with the times. People would be doing more ‘thinking’ kind of jobs rather than homogenous / repetitive jobs. This itself is a motivator in its kind. Eventually mankind would move towards emancipation.
PS: Coming back to movies & science-fiction, Would any robot become self-aware & take over the world? Well that would be a new article altogether.
About the author:
Prabhakar MN started his career as a blue collar workman, traversed an unbeaten path to complete MBA from XLRI & now works as Director Business Excellence at Sutherland Global Services. He also volunteers at SCNext and is an associate member at ASQ. He is a Six Sigma Black belt and with 11 ½ years of experience in Business Excellence, Manufacturing & Supply chain; handling pivotal role in order to enhance productivity, by integrating Lean, 6 sigma, Robotic Process Automation methodologies & bring in real QnI