How to Use RPA to Make Workers on the Ground Happy
In the second half of the conference, the discussion focused on work style innovation achieved with RPA.
Preventing Deviant Robots
Moderator Eiji Asai spoke about the risks posed by automation and robotics, such as robots deviating from their designed purposes, security incidents, and compliance violations. He then asked the presenters about solutions related to RPA implementation.
Tateno answered, "The level of detail of tasks that we are trying to optimize with RPA is much finer than other projects that information systems have attempted to tackle thus far. In order for information system departments to push forward with RPA, they must get closer than ever before to actual tasks on-site."
Nakamura answered, "In on-site departments, it starts by talking about how to optimize the tasks that lie right in front of them. On-site leadership tends to pursue partial optimization, which carries much risk. To prevent the emergence of deviant robots and to keep them under control, people with expert knowledge in security and operation must be involved from the earliest stages of implementation."
Fujitsu observes customers' on-site tasks and then analyzes the findings. Fujitsu internally trains "field innovators," who are experts that can take such data and extract and improve issues. In addition, in 2017, Fujitsu introduced a new job title called "digital innovator." Digital innovators use new technology to ascertain how a customer's business can be transformed, then make concrete plans based on the results. Fujitsu already employs more than 200 digital innovators.
Hasegawa explained, "To jump-start large-scale implementation, it's important to create killer content that captures users' attention and to build motivation on-site."
Implementing a new service or platform inevitably incurs costs. Killer content is a type of content that exhibits a level of appeal that convinces users to transition to the new service or platform despite such costs.
RPA + AI Case Study: Effectively Reducing Office Task Workloads and Reception Task Automation
Asai offered his opinion, saying, "RPA is very capable of automating simple tasks, but there are limits when it comes to knowledge work that requires the ability to make judgements. That's where combinations of AI, IoT, and VR come in to enable transformation of work styles."
The conference included a demonstration of an OCR solution jointly developed by UiPath and Fujitsu. Paper invoices are scanned with OCR, which then registers documents in a management system, thus automating the task of document input. "OCR and RPA work in harmony. By integrating AI, we can apply this solution to even more advanced tasks." (Hasegawa)
Nakamura continued, "By integrating AI and other technologies, we open up possibilities to solutions we cannot imagine with just RPA alone." He proceeded to introduce two case studies on Fujitsu's efforts to apply RPA to reception work.
In the first example, decision-making tasks in central purchasing were automated by combining RPA with AI. By automating the assignment of a monthly average of more than 60,000 central purchasing tasks to 300 employees, the workload was reduced by 2,500 hours annually, making possible a shift toward more creative tasks.
In the second example, chatbots and RPA automated reception tasks for construction work. Automation of reception tasks related to customer applications and schedule adjustment tasks was achieved by the "CHORDSHIP" chatbot and RPA. The level of customer service was improved by 24/7 support and instantaneous schedule confirmation.
Nakamura explained, "RPA and AI sound like daunting undertakings, but with a little bit of solution-finding and familiarization, you can immediately feel their effectiveness. Also, since massive amounts of data must be collected for AI, which can only learn from learning data, RPA can also be used as a tool to augment AI."
He then described how emulators can be used to refer to and input updates into existing legacy systems that serve as key systems. In response, Asai commented, "This is changing companies and information systems in extraordinary ways."
Expectations for More Personal Uses of RPA
In closing, Asai asked the presenters for comments, "It is said that Japanese companies are sustained by the strength of those working on the ground, but how can IT help make workers happier?"
Tateno answered, "Going forward, as the trend in which each worker handles multiple tasks progresses, RPA, which has been discussed thus far from a corporate perspective, may come to be considered something more individual-oriented. We want to see more personal functionalities develop."
Nakamura answered, "At Fujitsu, the objective with RPA is to make it into something like a personal secretary, and to put it to use not only within the company but to help transform individuals' work styles as well as to make everyone's jobs easier."
Hasegawa answered, "There are two ways to think about this: the company perspective, and the individual perspective. From the company perspective, RPA can handle data input, collation, and referencing tasks, which offers some satisfaction in that regard. From the individual perspective, I agree with the two of you. I predict that we will reach a world where the idea of a 'personal concierge' becomes a widespread reality."
- Masato Tateno
Board Member, Senior Analyst
- Koichi Hasegawa
- Noriyuki Nakamura
Digital Transformation Business Group
- Eiji Asai