The rise of the machines could happen sooner than we think, as new research indicates that the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) market in Europe and Australia has the potential to grow considerably over the next few years.
A study conducted earlier in the spring by GM Insights into the global RPA market concluded that it has the potential to grow to over $5 billion by 2024. If that is the case, Europe is set to see significant growth in robotics and automation over the next five years, due to the larger numbers of manufacturing and logistics businesses operating within the continent—verticals that have already started to implement automated processes like picking, packing and delivery operations. Australia, too, could see the market grow within its shores, particularly as more and more RPA is used in telecommunications and customer support across major industry verticals, including IT, financial services and insurance.
Will UK jobs be at risk?
One of the key questions that will no doubt be on many employees’ and employers’ minds is “Are UK jobs risk, and, if so, which ones?” Although the aforementioned industries have begun implementing a virtual workforce to streamline certain business processes, there are still many industries that can only survive and thrive with a human workforce.
Further research has shed some light on how things could change come 2024 for the UK jobs sector. The findings have been a mixed bag that, surprisingly, indicates some light at the end of the tunnel. According to a report by Deloitte, lower-paid jobs in the UK are 5x more likely to be replaced by automation than those generating a salary of £100,000 or more per year. Analysing this further, we can look at the results of a recent report from KPMG and Harvey-Nash, which concluded that up to 20% of financial services roles are at risk of being replaced by automation. With estimations like these, it’s no wonder that people are dreading the widespread implementation of a digital and virtual workforce; however Jonas Prising, CEO and Chairman of ManpowerGroup, is citing further research conducted by the organisation to state that “organisations and individuals really can befriend the machines and collaborate in harmony”.
The ‘Humans Wanted: Robots need you’ report concluded that, far from making human jobs obsolete, automation could actually create brand new roles and change the quality of employment in the UK for the better. Eighty-seven percent of the businesses and organisations surveyed in the report are planning to maintain—or even increase—their headcounts due to automation, “shifting tasks to robots and creating new jobs”. A further 84% of these organisations also plan to upskill their entire human workforce by 2020, leaving the manual jobs for the machines and creating brand-new enriching and engaging human roles. According to Manpower, the widespread implementation of RPA is less of a machine revolution and more of a “skills revolution”.
Is the future automated?
With the progress and developments that are already being made, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to believe that the future will indeed involve automated processes across industries and our own lifestyles. Just look at the everyday tasks you are probably already performing: sending electronic money transfers via mobile banking, tapping your debit card on a POS device to pay for your weekly shopping, calling friends and loved ones through Skype, and even getting technical assistance from a chat bot. All of these activities have been possible through digital automation.
From a jobs and industry perspective, the RPA market has considerable potential to transform the way businesses and organisations run by supporting, and even speeding up, simple business processes. With the right technology, employers will be able to assign monotonous tasks like data entry, time sheet submissions, and even tenders and proposals to its robotic workforce, freeing up the resources of its human workforce and significantly improving productivity.
On the flip side, there are, of course, a number of challenges that could affect the growth of the RPA market, particularly within the timescales estimated in the GM Insights report. A lack of technical expertise and inferior technology will impact the deployment, integration and efficacy of automated systems, and that’s to say nothing of other practical considerations like the cost of implementation and ROI. It may well take decades for the RPA market to grow to a billion-dollar industry and become widespread, but, all things considered, it’s safe to say that it will happen eventually.