5 Ways Automation Is Taking Some of the COVID-19 Burden Off Businesses
There are currently more than 732,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. The global pandemic has caused tens of thousands of deaths and forced people everywhere to radically adjust to new ways of life defined by social distancing, isolating and working from home.
The coronavirus is also making businesses explore implementing automation systems in new ways or depend on automation more than ever. Here are five examples.
1. Automation Distributes Meals to Frontline Workers
Medical experts are hard at work around the world while caring for coronavirus patients and tracking the disease’s spread. In Wuhan China, which was the earliest epicenter of the outbreak, a company called Qianxi Robotic Catering used a robotic meal preparation system to keep those frontline workers well-fed.
The automated system is the size of a standard shipping container, making it easy to take to the areas that need it most. The setup makes 120 hot pot meals per hour using a variety of ingredients.
COVID-19 has changed many things, but it has not affected the need for hardworking people to eat. The robot from the catering company helps churn out meals to supplement human servers and ensure people get nutritious food while fighting the crisis.
2. Automation Assists With Hospital Cleaning Duties
When people think of those who are most at risk for contracting COVID-19 at work, doctors and nurses likely come to mind. But, hospital cleaners do high-risk work, too.
Many hospitals are trying to keep those employees safer by deploying a self-driving robot that helps clean rooms. In addition to killing 99.99% of bacteria and viruses with ultraviolet light, the robot focuses on high-touch surfaces like bed railings and handles.
A Danish startup called Blue Ocean Robots made the machine and sold it to more than 40 countries to help combat the coronavirus.
Of course, the robot’s automation benefits impact health care facilities at any time. Cleanliness is essential in those facilities, even without the coronavirus outbreak occurring.
3. Automation Facilitates Efficient, Consistent Customer Service
People can expect to see an increase in the number of automation applications to assist with customer interactions. Many companies sent their workers home but want them to continue engaging with customers from there. Computerized automation solutions can help with that.
For example, statistics say that 7 out of 10 calls go to voicemail. Tools exist that allow salespeople and others who contact people by phone to trigger the system to provide someone with a prerecorded voicemail message once they don’t answer — even without the telephone representative waiting to hear the beep. Then, callers can stay as productive at home as they are in the office.
Another example of companies ramping up the adoption of automation systems relates to them using chatbots to ease the burden on customer service agents. When people want to know answers to relatively simple queries, such as whether a particular banking branch is still open or if an airline has ceased operations, chatbots can chime in with helpful responses.
One solution, called Directly, automatically screens calls with AI to determine which ones to send to a human versus a chatbot. The company’s CEO says that the high-tech product reduces support ticket volumes by up to 80%.
When so many things in life are uncertain, people appreciate knowing they can contact a company and get the same high-level service they enjoyed before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Although automation does not eliminate all of the challenges that a person may face while making a living using the phone, it eases many of them.
4. Automation Keeps Production Flowing
The leaders of many companies have specified which companies and industries are “essential,” and which ones must cease operations during the coronavirus outbreak. Often, the organizations permitted to keep operating face labor shortages in the time of COVID-19.
Many people must quarantine themselves for weeks after traveling abroad, even if they do not have symptoms. Moreover, backups associated with coronavirus testing mean it often takes longer than anticipated to determine if a symptomatic person has the disease. In some places, people have walked off their jobsites while asserting that their employers are not doing enough to prevent workers from getting sick.
Automation is in an excellent position to solve these problems and more. Many companies in China that invested in automation systems before the coronavirus outbreak found themselves exceptionally well-equipped when production resumed in the country. Others raced to purchase automated machines to compensate as much as possible, despite being behind the curve compared to more forward-thinking competitors.
Additionally, one of the automation benefits that is especially appropriate during this time of social distancing is that it can enable enterprises to meet production quotas while keeping factories free of human workers.
These so-called lights-out factories are wholly automated, running 24 hours a day without a person in sight. Even if a company needs to assign someone to come in and turn on a machine or check it for correct functionality, the individual could do that alone.
5. Automation Aids in Content Moderation
Since COVID-19 represents a new virus that does not have a vaccine, many people are fearful and feeling desperate for any information about it that could protect themselves and their loved ones. Platforms like Facebook and YouTube give users quick access to information about the coronavirus and almost any other topic imaginable.
The problem is that such sites also provide ideal environments for people to purposefully or unwillingly share misinformation. Promises of coronavirus cures abound, despite health officials warning that none exist yet. Additionally, internet users claim to have information about nations using the coronavirus as a bioweapon or people that the legitimate sources are not telling them the whole story.
All of these factors mean that content moderators have to work harder than ever to vet the information that shows up online. YouTube is among the brands using computerized automation to get the job done. This is not the company’s first time using automation. However, it is reportedly ramping up its dependence on the option.
YouTube clarified that this approach meant content removal could happen even if a video did not break the rules. That’s because YouTube’s automated system allows taking a video down without a human assessing the clip first.
Automation applications like these could make workloads more manageable for the people who are directly involved in stopping the proliferation of untrue or misleading content during the time of the coronavirus outbreak.
People Will Appreciate Automation Benefits Even More for the Foreseeable Future
No one knows when the coronavirus outbreak will ease, and life will return to relative normalcy around the world. Until it does, and afterward too, automation will play a primary role in how businesses operate, helping more people see why automation is the way forward for companies that want to thrive.