(from an interview for Automa magazine regarding “DIGITAL OFFICE IN INDUSTRY”, questions asked by Radim Adam)
“However, what is essential for the effectiveness of our work is the work tool. Heaps of papers disappear from the desks, we work with electronic tools for documents processing, transform the development, planning, production, operational, control and other systems… in short, everything that can be automated is gradually taken over by software. Our future is in the software connected to increasingly affordable sensors and in capable people in charge of the decision-making process.”
INDIVIDUAL REQUIREMENTS FOR OFFICE ENVIRONMENT, IN PARTICULAR FOR THERMAL COMFORT, HUMIDITY, WORKPLACE LIGHTING, NOISE, ERGONOMICS AND OTHER REQUIREMENTS REPRESENT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DEPLOYMENT OF SMART TECHNOLOGIES. HOW WILL THESE REQUIREMENTS BE SATISFIED IN THE FUTURE?
Let’s divide the office equipment into: Environment and equipment and then Work tools.
The environment and equipment will be determining for the quality of work and the willingness to work. New, “greener buildings” are being built, they are automatically fitted with state-of-the-art technology and are thus cleaner, more environment friendly, offering greater living and working comfort. All manufacturers are constantly pushing the boundaries of what the new ergometry of a chair or table with a positioning surface should look like, they develop better air conditioning systems, etc.
In addition to that, we also equip our own home offices. Without a good chair, desk, and peace for work, our results will be limited.
However, what is essential for the effectiveness of our work is the work tool. Heaps of papers disappear from the desks, we work with electronic tools for documents processing, transform the development, planning, production, operational, control and other systems… in short, everything that can be automated is gradually taken over by software. Our future is in the software connected to increasingly affordable sensors and in capable people in charge of the decision-making process.
OFFICE WORK IS TODAY PERCEIVED AS WORK WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY. WHAT MAJOR CHANGES DO YOU EXPECT IN THE USE OF SOFTWARE IN INDUSTRIAL ENTERPRISES OF THE FUTURE?
Industrial enterprises will go further. They will automate data collection, decision-making systems will be added. Human labor will be further replaced by systems. Just look at car manufacturers, for instance. Today, only a small percent of people is employed because robots do most of the work. They do not answer back and work. And when the end of the economic cycle comes, neither the car manufacturers nor the state are so much prone to destruction of the entire economy. Which doesn’t mean that they won’t complain. You just shut down the robot. They have made a huge leap in recent years. Sadly, other industries do not follow this trend too much. Which, of course, is the choice of the owners and managers.
Customer experience is already being collected and evaluated in a number of industries. The results will be reflected in the service, new development, and of course also in sales. Everything will be heading towards the on-line product presentation and communication between the customer and the manufacturer.
Decision making, or the quality of decision-making algorithms, still is and will provide space for a man. However, the quality, quantity and evaluation of data are equally important. We are at the very beginning in the field of algorithmizing and evaluation logic. There is a huge space available. Artificial intelligence is in its infancy, although many people are trying to claim the opposite in their marketing communication.
PEOPLE IN THE OFFICES CAN IMMEDIATELY COMMUNICATE ABOUT WORK AND PERSONAL MATTERS. WILL MODERN COMMUNICATION METHODS PROMOTE OR RATHER SUPPRESS PERSONAL RELATIONS AT THE WORKPLACE?
We closely examined the situation with COVID 19. Standard work with available information. Even before the official measures were announced, we decided to completely switch the entire company to home office mode in two countries. With no exceptions. The execution of the decision was a matter of minutes. The goal was to ensure the smooth running of the company, our households, and customers. The company still runs at 100%, but from our private offices. The customer practically does not see any difference.
However, you can’t leave everything to technology. But the technology serves us well. We do not endanger ourselves, our surroundings or even the customer’s business. We are faster, more available, and more flexible. Telephones are disappearing, being replaced by applications, video communication… etc. It’s better and more efficient.
We would not have been able to take this step without prior years of technological preparation for another system of operation. While some companies struggle, we work perfectly well without any limitations. Our customers and business partners also switched to a similar regime together with us.
The form has changed, but the content remained. The society around us accepted the change. I am in touch with my team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s only up to you how you set up your occupational hygiene. You just replace the whiteboard in the meeting room with a virtual one. Team meeting can be replaced by video conferencing with recording. Training can be replaced by e-learning. Documents rotate within the document management system and workflow as we are used to. The same applies to transformation of ideas into electronic form. Human resources management takes place on-line and so does the production planning and management. We just don’t have a coffee together physically, just virtually. But the coffee talk remains. And, of course, we all look forward to seeing each other again.
The positive thing was to find that we can go even further with the available technology. The human soul is far from any limits.
People are social creatures and they can find a way to develop personal relationships in a new environment. For example, thanks to the possibility to speak with clients often and easily during the virtual business, I was able to change my relationships or views of many people who had not been reachable or visible before.
People do business with people. It is not possible to leave out personal contact for the time being. Short-term separation tests the partnerships. Healthy ones survive, the ill ones don’t. If you need to manufacture something in another part of the world, you can quickly find a partner with technology. Existence of the states in the economic environment is a thing of the past, there are no borders, the EU project is already obsolete. The free market for goods, movement of money and human capital are essential for further development. And the technology meets all these requirements. Technology frees up human resources and makes them available. And it is no surprise that we would not be able to acquire and employ our workers / partners located at another part of the planet without the technology. The planet is our virtual workplace. At least for the time being. And we are not slow down… quite the contrary.
HOME OFFICE IS AN ALTERNATIVE TO EXISTING TYPES OF OFFICES. THEY HAVE A NUMBER OF BENEFITS, BUT ALSO NEGATIVES. FROM THE POSSIBILITY OF CONCENTRATION ON WORK, POSSIBLE PROBLEMS WITH PROFESSIONAL DISCUSSION, OBTAINING MATERIALS, UP TO THE SAFETY OF COMMUNICATION MEANS. DO YOU CONSIDER THESE TODAY’S OBSTACLES TO THE LIMITING ALSO IN THE FUTURE?
Each limit can be bypassed, lifted, or removed over time. Many workers dreamed of the possibility of a home office and requested that from their employers. COVID 19 clearly showed that only 4% of workers regularly used home office before the coronavirus quarantine. There is a number of reasons for that. However, these 4% is the group equipped for the home office and having such moral and professional experience that the home office does not reduce their work performance in any way.
The others, unfortunately, either do not meet these parameters or meet them only partially. Their limits need to be pushed forward – through education, culture, experience, technological equipment, and the ability to work with it. And of course, by the ability to motivate and control.
But our main goal is not to switch over to home office, and thus to fulfill the dream of many employees who want to slip through… We primarily want the opportunity to produce things differently, to be able to get geographical freedom and get rid of overpriced cities, real estate, unworthy communal systems and services, uncomfortable life, poor quality environment, while maintaining and developing our work.
In this respect, the technologies clearly play a positive role. And I enjoy it. And what about you?
WHICH OFFICE ACTIVITIES CAN BE EFFECTIVELY TAKEN OVER BY OFFICE ROBOTS?
We already have the coffee machine… Now seriously. Many companies have solved their needs in the area of ERP, however, they are still naked when it comes to document management system (DMS). Only the percentage has changed – we can process about 20% of structured information (usually in ERP and partly also in ECM – enterprise content management systems, including DMS) but we are left with 80% of unstructured information, which is not under control. And this is the majority of documents in any form. They all can be (with some exceptions) replaced by robots.
Simply speaking, a robot can be deployed anywhere where there is no need for human judgment or special human skill.
Positive conclusion: smart companies have been working on this transformation for many years and have already resolved most of it. This speeds up their escape from the competition. COVID 19 and other similar crises will determine what is healthy and what must go away. This is the time when smart investments into technology pay back the most.
Clients from industrial companies already thank us for saving their productivity and for them being able to relocate their office work home without any problems as a part of emergency measures, with production going on without restrictions. The competitors stare. The robot smiles.
YEARS AGO, WE COULD NOT IMAGINE A RANGE OF SHARED SERVICES – FROM ACCOUNTING, THROUGH HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT OR ASSET MANAGEMENT, UP TO e.g. SECURITY ACTIVITIES. WHAT OTHER FIELDS HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO OFFER NEW SERVICES TO INDUSTRIAL ENTERPRISES, WHICH WILL ALLOW THEM TO REDUCE OFFICE WORK, WHILE MAINTAINING THE SECURITY, TRADE, AND INDUSTRIAL SECRETS?
For the time being, it will still be necessary to wipe dust from the office desks, despite of suppliers certainly improving their air conditioning systems.
I do not want to forget about any field of business, so my answer is general. Everyone can customize it as they like.
The shift is crucial in one area – now everyone finally understands that the statements like: “We don’t have people…” are nonsense. This is only the proof that the speaker did not react in time, used the “cheap people” in the obsolete way, and has not replaced the people with technology in areas where they could. These people, replaced by technology, then were not transferred to other work at places where the human brain or skills are needed. Now they are suffering, and they missed the boat.
The today’s office is IT. Let’s stop overlooking this area and let’s not use IT as an insult equivalent to something overpaid or inappropriate. This is the view served to us by the state, where politicians and parties really see it and demand it this way. But we are not the state. IT works really hard and actually does much more work than what you pay for its delivery. You usually pay once, plus for the maintenance of something that makes you money in the long term – a robot. IT is your friend. And again, 80% of your unstructured or semi-structured information is still out of control today. It is produced in your logistics, production, development, offices. This is where your know-how is stored, waiting to be valorized. And this is where ECM steps in. Once the ECM collects necessary data, its AI (Artificial Intelligence) module grows up and evaluates more. And at the end, there will be your brain for the final decision followed by an inflow of cash into your wallet.
ECM is security, ECM is a trade and industrial secret.
Shared, private, on-premise, cloud or mixed services are affordable. In short-term (for a project) or in the long-term. Everyone can choose the best according to their taste, needs, and budget. So, you can automate anything.
WE WELCOME YOUR OTHER OPINIONS AND IDEAS RELATING TO THE DIGITALIZATION OF OFFICES IN AN INDUSTRIAL ENTERPRISE.
Simple recommendation – take a break and evaluate where data, documents and people’s work are important to you. Convert the situation into money. Start with the highest benefits / revenues / costs.
Everyone has different priorities – someone needs to keep track of the cycle of contracts, others care about invoices, development and production documentation (from production and from clients), quality documentation, communication with clients, brand management, digital asset management and reach media technologies, data collection and evaluation, archiving, processes, etc.
Just choose what suits you best. Whatever you transform into digital form will make you profits. Same as the manufacturing of your products. Returns on investment generally range from 3 months to 2 years in average. Regardless of the absolute price of the delivery. How fast do you make money? Will any bank give you such interest?
Good luck with that.