Robotic Automation—an Answer to the Looming Labor Shortage (And a Way to Save Money)

iStock-599686170_robot_person_shake hands_resized.pngHave you noticed the number of Help Wanted signs showing up at stores, offices and factories? And the openings are not just for retail and restaurant workers.

There are plenty of opportunities for professional managerial workers. Nationally, the unemployment rate in the United States is about 4.7%—not much higher than the accepted benchmark of 3% for full employment.

According to an April 2016 report by the Conference Board, two major factors are contributing to the looming labor shortage: the pace of Baby Boomer retirements and low productivity within the existing labor force. That point about productivity is key.

For the past century, the United States and other nations have relied on automation to increase productivity, particularly in agriculture and manufacturing. In 1960, manufacturing comprised 24% of U.S. employment and accounted for 12% of gross domestic product. Fifty years later, manufacturing accounted for only 9% of employment but maintained the same share of domestic GDP.

Automation has also been effective in increasing productivity in certain service occupations. Bank tellers, retail cashiers, bill collectors and travel agents have long ago seen jobs in their professions replaced by automation. The challenge now is to extend automation to other labor-intensive functions that reside deeper within the enterprise.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in May 2016 there were 2.9 million office clerks. In total, there are 5.4 million jobs in fields as varied as payroll processing clerks to insurance claims that could be streamlined with automation.

So how do we do it?

A very promising answer is robotic process automation. Take Verint’s Robotic Process Automation solution as an example. It consists of software robots that help automate, manage and execute high volumes of routine business processes. These often consist of a frequently repeated sequence of “if this, then that” decisions.

Automating these processes could be an easy task for a computer programmer, but there are challenges to taking that approach. IT support can be costly and hard to get when you need it. Processes and systems often change, require complex integrations with databases or need to be tweaked for special situations. It would be so much easier if managers and administrators were enabled to simply automate these processes on their own.

If you and your staff can block out the steps to the process, then you can program the robot. The authoring tool makes it possible to create and edit guidance scripts. Verint Robotic Process Automation works by reading and interacting with computer screens just as a human would. Besides the obvious advantage of reducing or even eliminating labor requirements, there are several other significant benefits. RPA can help:

  • Reduce errors
  • Boost morale by redeploying workers to more challenging tasks
  • Assure consistent quality
  • Support compliance with rules and regulations.

Bottom line? You can take down some of those Help Wanted signs and online job postings and instruct each of your own robots on what to do. Give each a name if you like. The robots won’t mind. What’s more, be assured that they will never get sick, annoy coworkers, plead for a raise or ask for a promotion.

 

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