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What is all the noise around Robotics?

by Jamie Radford


The move towards implementing robots in businesses can be both frightening and exciting. Many people are scared about what the future holds for work life if robots are able to take over part or all of their job function. Robots can take over various functions but what they can’t do is the cognitive side of what a human can do.


For this reason they will likely never completely take over job roles and humans will always be needed to oversee and complement what robots do. Artificial intelligence is on the move and great strides forward are being made, but it will still never be at the level of human intelligence, their ability to rationalise and their physical, manual dexterity.


The use of robots in industry means that various tasks are able to be carried out quicker, businesses don’t need to be slowed down when employees are off sick or on holiday… but as much as they can add to the speed of getting various tasks done, they are yet to come close to the way humans can do the same tasks. It is a possibility that robots will completely take over jobs such as those in warehouses, but for the moment, humans and robots work hand in hand, complementing each other, especially in roles such as those in the accounts payable profession – and this will be the case for the foreseeable future.


Most roles within the accounting profession have traditionally been seen as very stable. But robotics has shaken that up. With data being a big part of what drives many organisations today, businesses need to have a clear understanding of how data can be used but also be able to react quickly to the dynamic global economy that we live in, in order to remain current and relevant.


At the APA Conference this year, we heard from Rod Chadwick, Head of Process Simplification at the Royal Mail. He spoke about robotics and automation and how it was not just about automating tasks, but rather the efficiency that automating those tasks provided. It was a fascinating talk and I’m sure afterwards, many people were considering looking into where they could implement robotics and automation within their own AP departments.


If you weren’t able to make it to the conference in October, here is a round-up which you may find interesting.


Robotics and process automation still needs to be binary, so in terms of the decisions it can make, they are required to be fairly basic and are therefore only relatively mundane tasks are able to be handled for the time being. There are a number of boring or mind-numbingly dull tasks within AP processes that could easily and simply be turned over to robots.


Not only would this mean those mundane tasks are handled quickly, but AP staffers could get more involved in other tasks and have the ability to make decisions on them, while also having the chance to enjoy their jobs just that little bit more. Feeling more valuable, being given the chance to make decisions and knowing that their contribution to the department is valued goes a long way towards job satisfaction and lowering staff turnover rates.


Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is certainly an emerging trend that, by now, most of us are aware of – or have at least heard about. With the use of robots, businesses can transform their process efficiency and have consistent quality in back office tasks and thereby also potentially significantly lower costs.


With regards to costs, where robotics is remarkable, is that one robot can perform three eight-hour shifts back to back, hence working for 24 hours a day, completing tasks with the same efficiency and quality, without human error.


Here is a short tutorial video created by E&Y which demonstrates just some ways in which robots could be used to automate certain processes, save time and therefore lower costs.




The answer to this question could be an entire post on its own, so in a nutshell, progress in robotics and automation has generally been slow, but now that it has made strides and has become somewhat of a buzz word, more and more organisations are beginning to consider the use of robots in their departments, especially because of the cost cutting benefits.


When implementing robots, Accenture Consulting has estimated an 80% cost reduction and an 80% to 90% reduction in the time it takes to carry out tasks. The overall quality on these tasks will also improve due to the elimination of human error.


The trend is definitely moving towards robotics process automation. In general, society’s needs as a whole are changing and robotics is preparing to step up to the plate. Watch this space!




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