Towards a Lights-Out Shared Services

Automation is much more pervasive in our business world than we often imagine.

Take lights-out manufacturing for example. This involves fully automated factories that require minimal human presence or intervention on-site. In other words, these factories can be run with the lights off.

Arguably the most well-known lights-out manufacturing facility is FANUC, a big producer of industrial robots, in Japan. Somewhat fittingly, at FANUC, robots produce other robots without requiring human supervision. The production lines are fully automated and can run unattended for several weeks.

Source: FANUC

Probably less well known are the dark stores. These stores resemble the traditional retail stores but with one key twist - they are not open to retail customers. Rather, they serve as a distribution centre for fulfilment of online orders or help facilitate a "click-and-collect" service (whereby a customer physically collects an order placed online).

Source: The Guardian

This same trend is now threatening to revolutionize the Global Business Services (GBS) and Shared Services (SS) arena. Long reliant on labour arbitrage and outsourcing for their competitive advantage, many GBS/SS are finding their traditional business models being upended by technological disruptions, as well as the prevailing anti-globalization sentiments.

Indeed, many industry executives are now turning to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to solve their business conundrums. For the uninitiated, RPA is an emerging technology that automates mundane, repetitive front- and back-office tasks by mimicking human actions such as mouse clicks and keyboard strokes.

By taking the robots out of humans, RPA offers a glimpse of the Holy Grail - automating transactional tasks in a truly digital GBS/SS the same way industrial robots automated production in the shop floor during the Second Industrial Revolution.

With RPA, the trifecta of cheaper, faster and better is now within grasp:

  1. Lowest cost service provision

  2. Meeting and exceeding Service Level Agreements

  3. Lowest error rate/rework

The following might just be future of your future GBS/SS:

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