Robots invade the council

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By the Orbis Robotics Team

Timeline: January/February 2018

Ok, so this is probably a tad dramatic considering that here in Orbis, the partnership between Surrey, East Sussex and Brighton and Hove councils, we are building the robots and therefore inviting them into our offices, rather than robots invading them.

However, our story is quite shocking considering this is a massive jump forward from still having paper floating around in a few of our offices. This is why we are documenting our journey and will be sharing this in a monthly robotics series.

In a strategic bid not to get left behind in a technological world, and to power through our more repetitive and mundane work, we have decided to build a family of robots to help us. With no budget to fund the work and various restrictions in place, this is going to be a hell of a challenge – but something needs to change.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) could potentially save Orbis thousands by reducing the time taken to process workload, considering we have 3,000 core processes to choose from. However, it does come with concerns: our employees are concerned that robots will take their jobs from them and our teams are concerned that we don’t have the skills to build the robots. So, how do we tackle these issues?

We decided our first move was to get a project manager – enter Andre – and for him to find a team who would form our RPA experts – enter Information Technology (IT) and various subject matter experts from our existing teams. After having played ‘musical rooms’ with a team that were occupying what we thought might be the perfect ‘Bot Lab’ and us learning the hard way that communicating early helps to reduce hard feeling, the Robot team were ready to start work in their new lab.

So, where do you start when you have an abundance of processes that you can work on? We implemented something called Project Pathfinder to help identify any broken processes and analyse the data collected to help find better ways of working. This enabled us to identify what the robots could potentially be introduced to help with, versus what the teams could improve and deal with themselves, and this information fed back to the lab.

All good so far but now came the real test: how to build a robot with no previous experience in doing so, no budget for training and no manual to follow?? Thank goodness for Google and YouTube because they became our best friend!

In hindsight, we may have been a tad over ambitious in what we wanted to achieve and by when (a lab, a team of ‘experts in training’ and Project Pathfinder giving us insight into our mass of processes) but one thing it did demonstrate is the talent we have and just how determined our people are in finding solutions.

Working excess hours (which we don’t recommend) and refusing to be beaten, incredibly our RPA experts pushed boundaries to attempt their first robot.

Did we succeed? Find out in our coming blogs!

Robots invade the council

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