Intelligent Automation

The essential new co-worker for the digital age


In the United States, a new cancer-fighting drug is on schedule to hit the market in half the time—and at half the cost—cancer drugs typically take. Pharmaceutical start-up Berg Health used a supercomputer to analyse tissue samples from cancer patients and cancer-free individuals, and then collate the 14 trillion data points from each sample into meaningful categories. With this information—the sheer quantity of which would have been impossible for humans to process—scientists have been able to create a new and sophisticated response to a devastating disease, and within a time-frame that was previously impossible to contemplate.

This is Intelligent Automation in action, where man and machine combine their strengths to reinvent the possible. As seen in Berg Health’s lab, smart machines offer scale, speed and the ability to cut through complexity—skills that are different from, but complementary to what human workers are capable of. Together, they are pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved. And by changing what can be achieved, Intelligent Automation is reshaping entire industries.

We are seeing this happen globally, and here in Malaysia, where companies like Hong Leong Bank, Tenaga Nasional Berhad and Royal Malaysia Police have successfully deployed Intelligent Automation. Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has noted the potential of such technology to allow for more effective and cost-efficient delivery of healthcare and traffic management, among other things, as the country readies itself for the digital economy.

The Automation Advantage

Despite common misconceptions that we may be innovating ourselves out of our jobs, Intelligent Automation is not about replacing human workers in the workplace. At Siemens’ fully automated “lights-out” manufacturing plant, for example, machines organise themselves, supply chains automatically link together, and orders are directly converted into manufacturing information. But the company will still employ 1,150 workers, whose focus will be on higher skilled jobs like programming, monitoring and machine maintenance.

Intelligent Automation is about collaboration, not replacement, and about empowering customers, partners and employees to achieve more with technology. We anticipate that current and future advances will deliver at least 30 to 40 percent in productivity gains in just three to five years, even in functions that are already automated.

In our survey of 3,200 IT and business executives, 70 percent said they were making significantly more investments in Intelligent Automation-related technologies than they did in 2013, and 43 percent had realised cost savings greater than 15 percent from intelligent process automation in the past two years.

And this is just the start. It is estimated that between 2015 and 2018, as many as 152,400 units of professional service robots worth US$19.6 billion will be sold.

For companies and organisations, Intelligent Automation offers advantages that should not be ignored, particularly in an age of digital disruption.

Leaders who embrace automation will hold a competitive advantage as machines and software intelligence become the newest recruits in their workforces, bringing new skills to help people do new jobs, reinventing what’s possible.

Intelligent Automation in Malaysia

There are several examples of Intelligent Automation being successfully adopted and incorporated in Malaysia, for example the Royal Malaysia Police’s SMART Lock-Up and Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s smart meters (see case studies below). However, on the whole, the scale of adoption remains small. Rolling out on a large scale requires substantial investment, and the scale of that investment is something most businesses worry about, especially in the current economic climate. Talent scarcity in these highly demanded skill sets is another factor in the way of large-scale rollouts. The current mindset tends to be one of caution. This is a new frontier for everyone. But if Malaysia wants to be a leader, and to become more competitive in ASEAN and the world, we cannot be about low-cost manufacturing. We have to be about productivity and higher value services. Intelligent Automation feeds into both these ambitions.

Case Studies

Royal Malaysia Police

Following a successful 15-month pilot at Jinjang Police Station in Kuala Lumpur, the SMART (Self-Monitoring Analytics Reporting Technology) Lock-Up system will soon help prison guards prevent jail breaks, fights, suicides and custodial deaths in lock-up facilities across Malaysia. The system uses wide-angle surveillance cameras and gait analysis to capture and detect suspicious behaviour by inmates in real time. Security personnel at the control centre and officers-in-charge are alerted to any incidents via a surveillance screen with a 3D location marker, allowing them to move in on and manage situations before they escalate. Events captured can be shared, with a time stamp, with other authorised personnel.

Hong Leong Bank

Since January 2016, Hong Leong Bank has had a new employee, IBM Watson, who is available around the clock to respond to queries from its credit card holders and offer advice on the card best suited to their lifestyle needs. The open cognitive computing technology platform continuously learns from its “live” chats, analysing content, tone of voice and emotion to gain in value and knowledge for future interactions. Watson also supports its human colleagues with rapid analyses of vast volumes of data—including research reports, product information and customer profiles—to identify the connections between customers’ needs, and find a match from among the various financial options available to them. With this information, the bank’s staff can deliver better service faster, and ensure greater consistency and accuracy of information. Hong Leong was the first organisation in Malaysia to adopt IBM Watson to transform its customer engagement model.

Tenaga Nasional Berhad

Malaysia’s main energy provider Tenaga Nasional Berhad is putting the power to control electricity consumption into the hands of its customers. Over the next decade, it will install “smart meters” in 8.5 million households around the country. Using Smart Grid technologies, these smart meters record consumption of electric energy at intervals of an hour or less. That means a customer can monitor the amount of electricity used, know when it was used, and how much it cost. Combined with real-time pricing, this will allow customers to cut down on their power consumption when electricity is most expensive, saving money. A customer can, for example, set his or her washing machine to run during non-peak hours. Beyond helping customers to manage their electricity use, the smart grid also presents benefits with regard to Malaysia’s economic, national security and renewable energy goals.

Key Takeaways

  • Take a "People-First" approach by adapting the organisation’s culture, skills, and experience to adopt new skillsets.

  • Intelligent Automation will give organisations newfound power to drive change.

  • Intelligent Automation will become a core competence—a pervasive capability for every aspect of your business.