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In the Face of COVID-19, is automation the economy’s last hope?
21.04.2020
In the Face of COVID-19, is automation the economy’s last hope?

Flights grounded, public transport on its knees, and the world’s top cities advise their population to stay indoors. The electronic supply chain across the world has not been spared either with shipment delays occasioned by the labor shortage and canceled flights. Perhaps it sounds like a dreaded horror movie, but that’s the reality of COVID-19. This invisible enemy that exploits human interaction to spread.

COVID-19 has tested our reliance on human interaction for our social-economic activities, and we all agree, we need to change how we do business. AI and robots have the potential to automate crucial operations necessary for the complete functionality of the economy without too much human supervision.

The situation has forced consumers to explore ways to get products and services at the confines of their homes. They now purchase products or services online, even though not all of what they need is available on the digital platforms. Most of the products and services, as it is right now, have to be delivered or performed in-person by humans. There’s no better time to experiment than now.

How Life Would Have Been Like

We already have cases where autonomous systems, such as robotics and drones or other smart devices, exploit AI to perform these services that needed human presence. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, autonomous AI implemented in Starship and Kiwibot has been helpful during these challenging times, offering “last mile” delivery of physical goods.

We can remotely control robots to perform crucial functions to limit human interaction. In such cases, AI augments the roles of humans. We can then conveniently meet the WHO’s social distance requirement, as there’s a limited need for human interaction. And we do this without halting our social-economic activities.

But what does an AI-augmented future mean? That’s the worry for most people. Of course, we have to make some sacrifices. Such a resilient AI-augmented workforce, a renders a large part of the human workforce redundant. That in itself creates another crisis.

While these robotics miss the human touch, they execute the roles far much faster and far much more efficient. Also, they are limited in supply, and the adoption has been slow. So, most of what we have alluded here what could have been. But it is likely how life is going to be in the future. Right now, though, the world economy remains susceptible to global pandemics, like coronavirus.

How to Implement Smooth Automation

Automation, which is now a fundamental pillar of digital transformation, requires proper planning and diligent execution. Remember, the thought of mechanizing operations is never welcome by employees, yet you need employees to make it work. Therefore, you want to be careful to automate functions in such a way that it’s the roles and not people that become redundant.

Some jobs inevitably are going to be replaced by AI in the immediate future. But this has happened in the past, and it happens with every technological innovation in human history. AI is unlimited, versatile, and we can apply it across many business domains.

Successful implementation of automation is a delicate balancing act characterized by complex got it has far-reaching effects on the organization. There are risks unrelated to algorithms, such as maintaining and boosting employee morale, psychological effects of the new ways of working, and training your workforce for seamless operations. Remember, no automation can work without a little human support. Therefore you need to maintain an engaged, motivated, and well-skilled workforce.

To encourage smooth workplace automation, you need to carry out the exercise intelligently, maximizing its long-term impact with minimal resources. To do that, observe the following three things:

  1. Your automation strategy must be in line with your business priorities, the culture, and your transformation plan.
  2. Prioritize potential automation projects to help you identify talent and skill gaps in your organization.
  3. Decide on whether to build, buy, or partner to acquire the needed technologies, and talent skillset.

Like any technology-driven disruption, there are new business models that the workplace must adapt, revenue streams to funnel, and talent needs to meet. The workplace is bound to displace existing workers in a new paradigm shift. Adoption may be limited to priority areas that build distinctive advantages and deliver value to the business, customers, and society at large.

But automation is like sports, as it requires teamwork. As a business owner, you need a cross-functional and analysis-led implementation approach. To position your organizations for the future workplace, you need to exploit the crisis created by COVID-19. But even as you do so, keep the social distance, and stay healthy as the AI-augmented future is just around the corner.

 

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