Since more companies in Thailand have embraced and implemented advanced automation technologies and robotics, the country’s workforce will have to undergo extensive training in their use, said Malina Platon, managing director for Asean at UiPath, a leading Robotic Process Automation (RPA) provider.
”We are coming to realise that automation will create more jobs than it disrupts and that the next step is to learn how to work with robots,” Platon told The Nation Weekend in an interview.
With robotics on the job, workers can save up to 20 per cent of the time they spend on repetitive tasks that actually require no human element. The hours saved could then be devoted to customer engagement, Platon explained.
RPA is software used to automate existing processes through robots or artificial intelligence (AI), thus freeing up staff to do more high-value, critical-thinking tasks.
In a recent study UiPath commissioned, Forrester Consulting found that nearly 70 per cent of organisations surveyed believed RPA was enabling their employees to have more human interaction.
Succeeding in digital transformation initiatives requires organisations to pivot on a core level, that of “engaged employees”, Platon said, citing the same study.
“This means that employees need to understand what robots can and cannot do. They need to learn how to identify the tasks robots are able to automate, how to prioritise and reorganise existing work processes and then deploy the robots.”
More importantly, robot deployment needs to fit into the overall business needs of the company.
To prepare for the coming automated economy and learn how to use robots as “co-workers”, Thai businesses need to first identify an overall business objective, she said.
“Will it be cost reduction? Error elimination? Productivity gains? Once this has been clarified, the company will need to establish the right in-house skills set and capability.”
Platon said RPA implementation required a deep understanding of automation and processes, as well as skills in developing an automation programme.
A team must be created entailing IT security, infrastructure specialists, process analysts, solution architects and controllers.
Robust governance must be put in place, she said, as well as proper lines of communication between the business units and the IT/RPA team to ensure the process aligns with business goals.
What Thailand needs
All processes should be documented and should involve creating detailed user-stories, defining business requirements, and testing, managing and reporting.
Lastly, it is very important to track key performance indicators, she said.
In Platon’s view, emerging markets such as Thailand have historically been less exposed to automation than other countries because of lower labour costs, so the investment that automation requires has not been seen as justified until recently.
But more Thai companies are beginning to embrace and implement technological advances in the fields of RPA and AI after seeing the advantage gained.
Highly advanced automation technologies will help Thailand accelerate its economic growth, Platon said.
“Automation helps companies do more with less, which allows them to grow, become more successful and hire more people to do higher-value work,” she said.
There are two main benefits for the Thai economy in adopting automation, she said.
RPA will help companies become more competitive regionally and internationally. The sooner they get involved, the faster they can reach top levels of productivity and competitiveness.
Secondly, automation has a positive effect on talent and on jobs in general.
RPA allows employees to concentrate on their strengths – creativity, emotion and innovation – while handling tasks for which humans are not inherently designed.
UiPath, which recently opened a Bangkok office, partnered last year with KPMG, one of the largest professional-services firms in Thailand, to provide RPA solutions to help companies here improve productivity and service quality.
It has conducted two pilot projects using RPA for clients in the manufacturing and financial-services industries.
UiPath also earmarked US$20 million to encourage partner innovation projects and enhance its products and is expanding its educational network, the UiPath Academic Alliance, dedicated to training one million students over the next three years.
“We hope to announce soon a partnership between a Thai university and UiPath for our Academic Alliance programme,” Platon said.