At first glance, “green” and “robot” may not seem like a natural pairing. One suggests a pared-back, conscious lifestyle. The other – thanks to Hollywood – can paint a picture of dystopian overconsumption. However, with the growing popularity of disruptive technologies such as Robotic Process Automation, the ‘green’ robot is no longer the oxymoron it first seems. Let’s take a look at a few aspects which allow us to consider RPA a green technology.
RPA accelerates green initiatives
Let’s take the example of smart meters. In part, the technology creates a greener world by allowing consumers to more closely monitor their household energy consumption and in turn, encourages users to reduce their usage. In tandem, the smart meters also report accurate views of when and where energy is being consumed which energy providers can reference during the buying process to reduce waste.
The store of data is a goldmine when considering how to make the energy sector more efficient. However, the sheer volume of structured and unstructured information reported by these smart devices makes processing this data quickly and efficiently difficult to do without tech support.
When software robots are introduced, they can read and extract the data in moments, relaying and structuring the information as needed, often in near real-time. This allows for greater efficiency within forecasting, demand and supply management, and energy trading, consequently allowing for greener solutions to form.
Such innovation is already supporting a variety of green-focused initiatives around the world. For example, in the Czech Republic, automation was used to speed up the provision of green boiler grants to 1.2million people in the Moravian-Silesian Region, improving the air quality in surrounding areas.
Reducing the carbon footprint with software robots
When the focus shifts away from how innovative uses of RPA can spark or support sustainable solutions to how software robots can make business operations more sustainable themselves, automation again has a part to play in fostering a greener future.
Often the first step of an automation journey is process mining. It comprises software extracting existing data about what happens in a process and when, and translating this into visual workflows. It allows organizations to literally see where the bottlenecks and inefficiencies lie. With this full view, they can be in a position to begin transforming how they work and cutting out the wastefulness that contributes to the over-use of resources.
Once the most efficient way of carrying out processes is identified through process mining, the addition of RPA software robots into workflows can further help to reduce the carbon footprint. For example, UiPath has integrated software robots into its IT department. By creating a Center of Excellence for IT operations, including the introduction of a self-service IT chatbot, the department was able to significantly optimize its infrastructure and as such reduce its yearly compute energy footprint by 65%.
Other businesses are following a similar path of optimization. A leading tax provider, for example, faces a hugely dynamic workload during the busy tax seasons, resulting in a 500-1000% workload demand increase in certain periods of the year. The organization has turned to automation to create an auto-scaling solution, by intelligently and automatically ‘spinning up’ and ‘spinning down’ machines as required, energy wastage has been reduced in comparison to ‘always on’ redundant capacity.
Slashing paper usage with automation
However, optimizing processes isn’t the only solution – overhauling those once reliant on physical resources can also significantly cut waste and improve efficiency. Consider that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year, wasting 6,800 of them. If all of these were from new sources, that would require over eight trees and almost 2,000kWh of energy. Automation can help to reduce this waste by digitalizing processes.
One infrastructure solutions firm has in part tackled this problem by automating the handling of 400,000 invoices a year. Rather than using paper, ink, and energy to print, sign and scan an invoice, a robot can now simply do all of this digitally – and at a far greater speed, potentially saving the company 320 trees and 80,000kWh a year.
While RPA isn’t the golden ticket to a greener world, if used wisely it can certainly set companies on the right track through innovation and improved efficiency. By looking inward at processes and understanding how software robots could improve efficiencies across departments, RPA offers the chance for organizations to reduce both their digital and physical resource thus serving better ecology.