On Building a Robot

Happy new year all!

Hope you all had a wonderful break and a good beginning to the new year. For me I was down south having Christmas with my sambo’s family before returning to work.

To give you a bit of an update on what I have been doing since last time, my main project has been working on building a robot to help automate a financial service function. With all the talk around of the increasing intelligent automation of work going into the future, it has been very interesting to be part of that process. So perhaps this would be a good time to think of what are some learnings from being part of this process, that is expected to play an increasing role.

Whilst the snow fell outside we were hard at work inside building our robot. We were, of course, fuelled by robot-building juice (tea).

To begin with, it is perhaps worthwhile to explain what we mean by intelligent automation (for more EY insights on intelligent automation). When we talk about intelligent automation and robotics in this context we are referring to software robots that operate as virtual employees, reliably automating manual, repetitive tasks at scale. One of the main things here is to note that robotics and automation today focuses on manual and repetitive tasks. In that sense, I felt satisfaction in helping build this robot because I knew that the value of what I was creating could be tangibly measured in hours saved for humans. And, importantly, the hours saved are hours that would have been spent not utilizing the potential of human creativity. Instead, that time can now be directed to more fulfilling and stimulating activities focused on tasks that only humans can do, using our creativity and imagination.

So, now moving on to the process of how does one build a robot?

To begin with it is important to note that the kind of robotics that we have been doing does not involve as much coding as the physical robotics. More important than coding are the core consulting skills of process mapping and persistence. We began this project right before Christmas, and continued it through mellandagarna and the beginning of the new year. In the team we had two consultants, a senior consultant here in Sweden, and one in Norway.

When we began, the challenge of this robot seemed insurmountable. When we looked at some templates sent to us we found it difficult to imagine how we would be able to build anything to compare to that. But we began slowly. As we worked through mellandagarna we didn’t have many other people at the office so we had to sit with the robot and try to come up with novel solutions. Those days felt long and we mixed days that were productive with days that were frustrating. However, all of the days felt rewarding as there was movement towards our goal. This was an invaluable learning experience and when the seniors had returned they were impressed with what we had managed to produce.

Before we started this project us juniors had not had much experience in robotics. We had both completed a theoretical course and had done some basic introductory exercises however, but one of the great things about working in consultancy is that you are thrown into various projects and you are expected to learn quickly and adapt. This is not always easy but it is part of the joy in it. And certainly, when we submitted our work and started getting feedback we felt tremendous pride that our efforts were bearing fruit.

So, what are some things to be taken away from this? First, the age of intelligent automation is truly upon us. Second, the benefits of intelligent automation are that they can allow humans to focus our energies upon the things that we do best, liberating us from some of the drudgery of repetitive, manual work. Third, the process of being involved in the intelligent automation journey is exciting and rewarding and I have found a good environment to do it at EY.