The “humans vs robots” paradigm is as old as, well, editors using the word paradigm to sound smart.
Although those who know more about it don’t think such things, we do often encounter threats to jobs posed by automation in general by those specifically made by robotics.
You’d probably expect us now to introduce someone who sells robotics of some kind telling you how great it is but; on this occasion, the champion here is none other than a fellow market participant like you: Antonio Sevilla Cervantes, Head of Back Office at Endesa.
Yes, he and his team have been deep into the application of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and, ahead of this talk at ETOT on the mater, we asked him a few questions about it.
Can you please describe to us your experiences so far with RPA?
We have developed internal solutions related to the submission of information from our systems into web pages of TSOs and other organisations. These are homemade developments made by our back office team. Now we have started an AGILE project with IT support in order to improve these developments. An additional goal for the squad is the management of invoices. With the invoices, we want to combine RPA and OCR tools in order to extract the information from the invoice and to match it with our settlement information.
What kind of effort is necessary to replace an existing function with robotics? In terms of time, investment, workforce etc?
First, I believe you need to understand really well the process, and understand how to divide it into different smaller steps. Second, it is important to have a clear idea that the RPA is the best solution for you to solve the automation of the process.
In the back office, we have other specialized tools, such as ETRMs, and it is required to analyse how to combine efficiently the tools into the expected solution.
With this insight, the next step is to prepare the team responsible for the project. With a basic training on RPA, your own staff could implement simple RPA solutions. Solutions that are more complex would require IT support and probably would take longer.
“…there is room for RPA solutions to complement ETRMs in the stage of data capture”
What are the limitations of RPA?
Our short experience with RPA has shown us that there is room for RPA solutions to complement ETRMs in the stage of data capture, and in general for the development of solutions related with the management of documents and information.
Other possible uses of RPA are limited by the existence of specialized systems that are already in use. Therefore, in our opinion, at this moment RPA is mostly limited to solutions related to management of information.
Do you see RPA as a threat to human capital in any way? Is there ever resistance from the wider teams?
No. RPA is a robot, a repetitive machine. Of course, if you enjoy repetitive tasks, this is a threat. However, repetitive tasks are not activities that help to develop employees’ talent. RPA solutions have to be used to release talented employees from repetitive activities, allowing them to develop additional skills. In my opinion, RPA is an opportunity not only for improving processes, but also for adding value to the jobs.
In our case, there is no resistance. We are using RPA for the automation of activities that are annoying. In our team, RPA is seen as a useful tool, but of course not an easy tool to manage; requires learning and experience.