Exclusive Interview With Vincent Gao: Hyperautomation Trends In Southeast Asia

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Gartner has identified hyperautomation as one of the top strategic technology trends of 2022, with 90 percent of large organisations globally having adopted RPA in some form. We asked Vincent Gao, founder and CEO of Cyclone Robotics, to give more insights about hyperautomation and trends in Southeast Asia.

Q: What’s the latest hyperautomation trends in Southeast Asia?

Vincent Gao (VG): We’re seeing that many ASEAN countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia have all announced their national strategy for digital transformation. In October 2021, Singapore announced new phases of the Smart City Initiatives established in 2019 with Shenzhen, China, and highlighted robotics development as one of its three key focus areas. However, most enterprises in Southeast Asia continue to be stuck in the first stage of RPA – desktop task automation. This is largely because vendors are unable to provide enablement and services which affects product enablement, becoming the main obstacle to the enterprises’ digital transformation journey.

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Q: What are the myths associated to hyperautomation that you would debunk?

VG: There are certainly myths that require debunking when it comes to hyperautomation. One such example includes the myth that it will lead to job losses. This is untrue – RPA simply creates a new way of working in the digital age and provides employees with a more agile working environment. For example, there are three levels of interactions employees can have with robots depending on their complexity:

  • Allowing the robot to operate on its own, offering greater bandwidth for employees to tackle knowledge-based, irreplaceable tasks that require human judgement.
  • Allowing the robot to automate time-consuming daily tasks while an employee plays a monitoring role.
  • Working closely with the robot and managing its interactions directly.

On the contrary, the process automation landscape has advanced tremendously to generate new roles such as RPA analysts who help ensure that the technology is well leveraged or engineers who design digital workflows or systems using RPA. These new roles create, design, develop, and help enterprises implement RPA as they move along the hyperautomation roadmap, becoming a truly digital organisation.

Another common myth is that implementing hyperautomation is a one-time process, or that it’s complicated to deploy. Companies might face apprehension as they venture to adopt hyperautomation in their business processes for the fear of a rapid paradigm shift that could potentially come along with it. However, it is important to note that hyperautomation is scalable and enterprises don’t necessarily need to invest heavily in the early stage. Cyclone RPA can run across a variety of different platforms and software greatly reducing the barrier of adoption. Ultimately, even the earliest level of RPA makes businesses and individuals more efficient by allowing a greater amount of information to be available at faster speeds.

Q: With the latest global risk in coronavirus variants emerging and proving to be resistant to vaccines, this would have a snowball impact on the workforce, and global supply chain. How can software automation technology solve some of these issues?

VG: As the globe transitions towards cloud and digital workspaces, we are seeing organisations look to digitally empower critical business processes through RPA technology, building on resilience and scalability, while recalibrating human labour and manual effort. The two key issues that would hinder enterprises’ progress moving forward include exponential growth in the volume of data and increased backend workflows.

For example, there is a heavy demand for tech talent across multiple sectors in Singapore, especially those that include new innovative technologies. We are also seeing a rising need for automation to help enterprises minimise disruption across all aspects of their business. And with more employees opting to work-from-home due to the ongoing pandemic, RPA and hyperautomation act as a bridge connecting automation and business intelligence, helping enterprises perform time-consuming, standardised, and repetitive tasks automatically while enabling teams to channel their focus towards other critical business activities even while working remotely.

With the help of RPA technology, employees can manage day-to-day automation tasks, eliminating time-consuming manual processes and the potential for human error. One such example of this includes improving performance across the supply chain leveraging OCR technology to accurately identify POs, sales orders, inbound and out information. RPA then automates the data entry and generates the invoice, increasing efficiency and eliminating human error.

Not only is it cost-efficient and will it greatly enhance an organisations’ efficiency, RPA and hyperautomation technology will further minimise disruption, improve individual and departmental task efficiency and empower the workforce to work productively. With Cyclone’s RPA Mobile Designer and Mobile App, employees can automate their workflows even while working remotely.

Q: Which industry is the fastest to adopt hyperautomation, or slowest to adopt, and why?

VG: RPA technology adoption does entail a host of benefits, including significant cost savings, higher employee engagement, and improved workflow efficiency. However, the adoption of RPA technology remains highly dependent upon the organisation to acknowledge the need to change and be willing to embrace transformation.

Through our practice, we have seen that RPA has been adopted widely in various industries including financial and manufacturing, where we have already helped many Asian customers with different levels of deployment. For example, we have partnered with Sinolink Securities to initiate its digital transformation journey since 2019.

The explosion of e-commerce in recent years has also amplified the need for managing the online business in a more efficient and organised manner. The e-commerce industry has also been quick to adopt RPA solutions, from merchandising inventory update to product categorisation, from marketing to end-to-end operation services. Prior to adopting RPA, retrieval of marketing data was time-consuming and there were many repetitive and manual intensive operations. This contributed to a high turnover rate from front-line staff and added resources challenges. We’ve been extremely successful in helping e-commerce clients with their digital transformation efforts, integrating marketing data, automating manual operations, and effectively reducing labour costs.

Additionally, spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are now seeing increasing demands for RPA from many other industries, such as logistics, supply chain, healthcare, utilities, and governmental automation can help those industries minimise disruption across all aspects of business in the post-pandemic recovery. As a result, it also embodies huge market potential and new business opportunities for Cyclone to explore.

Q: What is your advice for manufacturing or intralogistics industries that could not afford the enterprise level automation (a.k.a. hyperautomation)?

VG: RPA and hyperautomation technology don’t need to be implemented across the full enterprise in one go. As a general rule of thumb, enterprises may first want to distinguish business operations that require more information and entail lower implementation costs. Once enterprises adopt a tried-and-true method, they can look at expanding their RPA deployment in gradual stages and across different business functions.

For instance, we’ve helped Thinkstart, a manufacturing company that develops and sells automation equipment to adopt RPA from the task level. Cyclone Robotics helped launch RPA pilots in tasks in the finance department such as billing and invoice issuing. With the deployment of Cyclone RPA, the robot can operate on its own and issue 400 invoices monthly, which greatly improves the work efficiency. After proven success, Thinkstart began to deploy RPA across more tasks to realise the digital transformation of the finance department.

Moving forward, enterprises with similar levels of digitalisation of Thinkstart don’t necessarily have to invest a lot at the early stage. However, by working with a partner like Cyclone Robotics, enterprises can start low, prove a success, and scale as they grow, without worrying about the cost of ownership.

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