The need for robots post Corona: automation is vital for recovery and blueprints to prevent future crises
We need to learn the lessons that are being shown from this virus– Dr. Michel J. Ryan (WHO Informal Advisory Group) couldn’t have put it better. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly thrown the world into disarray, taking numerous lives and infecting innumerable others as the whole world struggles to battle this threat of epic proportions. Of course, no one can ignore the overall disruption being faced by businesses, owing to stoppage of operations, loss of revenues and other challenges. The novel coronavirus pandemic has certainly dimmed prospects for the labor market globally as per reports. Unemployment figures have been touching record levels unfortunately with businesses and industries shutting down in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Social distancing may be a temporary phenomenon for some months but the economic downturn will severely impact businesses. However, there is one silver lining worth noting. Experts have noted that any global recession linked to COVID-19 may lead to a higher need for automation across sectors. Firms that were considering automation are now facing higher pressure to take the plunge, particularly in a post-coronavirus scenario. People and their benefits are comparatively costlier and automation will enable restructuring of the whole business, saving time, energy and money while scaling up productivity. Another factor worth mentioning is that enterprise software is now comparatively more affordable than earlier.
Automation and Coronavirus- How things are shaping up
As per reports, Henry Siu and Nir Jaimovich have reported that over the last three decades, three recessions have taken place. Over these periods, 88% of jobs were lost in routine occupations that are readily automatable. Lisa Kahn and Brad Hershbein from the University of Rochester have found that the sectors impacted the most by coronavirus are steadily switching routine workers with automation and other technologies and higher-skilled workers are also being hired at the same time. The indications are all there; in recent years, Amazon has already started using more service robots. As late as last year, the company had 200,000 robots in proportion to 650,000 human workers.
Automation could be good for global GDPs as well; experts have already forecasted an extra $800 billion for the GDP of the United States due to automation over a period of 5 years. This may equate to a whopping $12 trillion in additional wealth creation over 15 years. As a result, countries will find that GDP growth could go up by a sizable 40% with automation as per reports. In fact, working remotely or from home has a tinge of automation in the same, namely tools that foster communication such as GSuite, Zoom, Slack or Dropbox. Robots already handle a majority of customer service across banks and financial institutions. Indian manufacturers are already looking at automating shop floors considerably with artificial intelligence set to be the next big growth frontier, taking over a few functions to ensure better productivity and social distancing.
Companies will be investing more on RPA (robotic process automation), artificial intelligence (AI) and data science, particularly towards fully automating back office and IT operations. RPA may help combat this disruption, by helping companies remain connected across various systems and teams while maintaining customer support functions and offering greater stability in these uncertain times.
How AI can tackle this crisis
- Identification, tracking and forecasting of outbreaks
- Diagnosis and monitoring of the virus
- Processing of healthcare claims swiftly
- Delivery of medical supplies via drones
- Sterilization, delivery and other tasks in food supplies by robots
- Drug development via AI based algorithms and data science
- Creation of advanced protective fabrics
- Identification of infected/non-compliant individuals
- Information sharing via Chatbots
Data Science can be used for forecasting and tracking virus outbreaks and also for faster processing of healthcare claims, usage of robots for sterilization and other purposes and also for enabling Chatbots for information dissemination as mentioned above. Data science will help in extracting data about the virus and understanding the same via techniques of data visualization, graph analysis and GIS techniques. Based on this information that is gathered and examined, training models will be deployed for action accordingly.
Once the world attains success in combating and containing the novel
coronavirus pandemic, it is vital to have future preparation blueprints in mind. This includes best practices and scaling up levels of preparation to prevent future crises. This is where data science will help considerably. It will help in gathering information at a rapid rate for analysis, insights and deployment of action strategies. RPA will help in automating various tasks for better accuracy, productivity, efficiency and cost savings across business sectors, particularly in the manufacturing and services sectors. AI (Artificial intelligence) based algorithms will also play a huge role in mitigating this crisis and ushering businesses into a new future.