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The Covid-19 threat to business: Is hyperautomation the answer?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Cordis Technology)

Shockwaves of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to ripple across the globe. Not only have countless businesses faced unprecedented challenges already due to the pandemic, but it is likely they will have to continue doing so for a long time to come, too.

The health crisis has severely damaged countless businesses across all sectors, placing company executives under significant pressure to guide their organisations through the storm - without a how-to guide. Many urgent reductions had to be made - whether permanent or temporary - affecting staffing levels, discretionary spend controls, and production levels in order to keep businesses afloat. 

However, while some companies are finding their work levels significantly decreasing, others are facing the opposite challenge - as the frequency of their transactional work rapidly rises. An increase of insurance claims to be processed, cancelled appointment correspondence and rising contact-centre calls have meant some businesses find themselves busier than ever. And they are having to carry out these operations with a skeleton workforce, due to the enforced lockdown measures. So how can this be overcome, particularly when select industries find their workload dramatically increasing with less staff at their disposal? 

A demand to act quickly

Almost one year ago, I wrote an article that spoke of UiPath as a Dreamy Business, with almost unlimited upside. The conviction for that statement was born from the steadfast belief that hyper-automation will unleash the creativity and potential that was often locked up in teams, restrained by mundane and repetitive tasks. In short, hyperautomation accelerates human potential.

But of course, as has been proven time and again…necessity is the mother of all invention. We are at a unique point, in that the rules of time itself have changed. We don’t have the time to take our time.

Nations are building industries in front of our eyes. They are building hospitals within 10 days. They are reinventing production lines to roll out critical components, such as ventilators and personal protective equipment. Necessity is also driving our hospitals to automate clerical work to put extra capacity back into care. It’s driving the systematic organisation of testing for the virus and updating patient triage. It’s dealing with the wave of benefits claims. Of business loans. Of repatriation of citizens and the abundance of screening and onboarding volunteer workforce. It’s humanity at it’s best. And it’s accelerated.

How can automation help mitigate the Covid-19 impact?

The urgency of now is understood by UiPath, and our sense of responsibility to help has bound all of us.

With that in mind, UiPath has been providing our end-to-end hyperautomation platform free of charge to specifically help the front line of the fight against the virus. For the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin, we have extended our vision of a robot (digital assistant) for every person, to the specific requirements of a “robot for every nurse”, which is reducing the time the nursing team spends on clerical work by 30 per cent each day; 30 per cent more nursing capacity right now feels like a blow for the virus. Software robots are now logging into the laboratory system, applying relevant disease codes to tests, and inputting the information back into relevant systems and reports. Several additional healthcare institutions from around the world are also directly seeking our support and we are doing our best to step up.

We have also made available the free-of-charge UiPath Health Screening Bot, launched in several Asia-Pacific countries and being rolled out in Europe, Middle-East and Africa too. It keeps track of the employees’ health whether they work from the office or from home. Instead of putting HR people under a lot of strain, the robot sends out a survey and keeps track of who has and hasn’t completed it. Also, it proactively follows up every hour via various communication tools (Slack, WeChat, WhatsApp) to those who haven’t made the check. The Health Screening Bot organises all the data in a summary report at the end of day. The data summaries are presented in an easy-to-read visual such as pie and bar charts — making it easy to see where employees are working (at home or in the office) and their temperatures.

The airline industry has been grounded and with it, a massive number of requests for cancelations has been hitting contact centres. One of our European airline customers is using UiPath to allow agents to pull data faster by using attended automations and combining it with back-office automations to streamline the customer experience.

For one of the biggest online US retailers, ten unattended robots help with the selection process as they needed to add 100,000 full-time and part-time positions in warehouse and delivery roles to keep up with the sudden increase in online shopping and delivery. They have been processing 800,000 to one million job applications under time pressure and UiPath is automating much of the process and reducing the time to resolve screening and onboarding.

The roles are being reversed

As lockdown measures begin to ease and new norms are created for business operations, much of the new technology and innovation developed in this time should stay with us – so that human achievement is accelerated.

Now is the time to strengthen the human-machine collaboration, and help businesses survive these unprecedented times. All while adding capacity to the workforce, and ensuring business continuity of systems, processes and tasks.

Hyperautomation is certainly alleviating the impact Covid-19 is having on businesses, and will go some way to safeguarding companies in the future, too. Business executives should use this time to build the workforce, as well as the workspaces, of the future. There’s no doubt industries will develop a greater dependency on automation and innovation in the post-pandemic world.

Gavin Jackson, Senior Vice President and Managing Director EMEA, UiPath

Gavin Jackson is Senior Vice President and Managing Director EMEA at UiPath.