Enabling Robotic Process Automation at Work

According to some experts, artificial intelligence (AI) could one day free workers from the drudgery of repetitive tasks at work. This will allow them to focus on strategic, higher-value endeavours through AI-centric technologies such as robot process automation (RPA).

The Promise of RPA

But what is RPA and how does it work? Based on the notion of software robots or artificial intelligence workers, RPA systems can process vast volumes of data far quicker than can be achieved by humans.

A basic RPA process might entail it watching users perform specific tasks via a graphical user interface (GUI), and then replicating it. This significantly lowers the barrier to the use of automation in the office, especially for software that does not come with the needed API hooks (software interfaces) for software control.

Woman supervising Robotic Process Automation

In our Industry 4.0 world of digital devices, processes that involve repetition are ripe for automation with RPA. This ranges from work scenarios such as data entry through an order fulfilment system, responding to routine customer emails, or even handling inventory reports. Elsewhere, an RPA application could be used to check on raw materials in a manufacturing environment, track production hours and materials used, and even to predict the final cost of goods.

Perhaps more importantly, the tireless nature of the computers powering RPA precludes the possibility of mistakes arising from human error. On this front, a more advanced use case might revolve around predictive maintenance in an industrial setting where an RPA process is used to monitor real-time output from mission-critical machines. Unlike a human who might lose focus or be distracted, the RPA process can work around-the-clock. A red flag could be raised upon identification of an anomaly, at which point a human would be alerted to determine if the issue warrants an escalation.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Machine Advisor and Augmented Operator Advisor are good examples of automation technologies that fulfil these automation functions, both of which are offered to SMEs in its JumpStart Automation package. Those interested to learn more about industrial automation can take a free Smart Factory Readiness Assessment to get a free delegate pass to attend the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific (ITAP) 2019 convention in October.

Woman supervising Robotic Process Automation

The Edge Infrastructure Link

According to Vincenzo Salmeri of Schneider Electric, RPA calls for edge computing due to the vast amount of data processed and its inherent requirement for low-latency computing.

“[To] be effective, RPA must have access to significant compute resources. And given the real-time nature of the applications in industrial and commercial environments, those compute resources must be local, not in some faraway data centre or the cloud,” Salmeri explained in a blog post.

But what exactly are micro data centres? You can read more about them here, but micro data centres are essentially small data centres designed to meet today’s diverse and fluid IT requirements. They typically consist of just one or two server racks, though modern micro data centres do pack a massive punch with the help of dense, converged infrastructure IT systems.

A micro data centre deployment can be preconfigured either at the factory or by a systems integrator before delivery. With the ability to quickly set them up once they arrive, micro data centres offer enhanced time-to-value and greatly enhanced ease of use – both of which are particularly useful in situations where there are no IT resources on site.

Leveraged correctly, AI will dramatically increase productivity and profitability for businesses around the world. For those who are interested, Schneider Electric has a range of micro data centre solutions that you can read more about here.