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Robots making a splash
Helping United Utilities to revolutionise its services – with robots
Robots taking over the water industry – it might not make a great sci-fi movie, but it is fantastic news for water companies and their customers. Step forward United Utilities, the water company that’s leading the way in using robots to revolutionise its services.
This isn’t the stuff of fiction – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is here today and making a real difference to customer services. It’s already being used to speed up home meter applications, to manage engineer availability and to send appointment reminders by text – and that’s just the first stage of a process that will see United Utilities become a digital company fit for a digital world.
Read on to see how Deloitte is working with United Utilities to realise and deliver the many benefits that new technology has to offer.
“Installing the software is an important part of our digital strategy. There are a host of different things that we can use the robots for to help us provide an even better service for the seven million customers we serve.”
From analogue to digital
The water industry has been slow to embrace digital technology. Water regulator Ofwat called it an analogue industry operating in a digital world. It has urged water companies to “fully embrace” innovation, and launched a digital campaign around this theme.
William Hewish, chief information officer at United Utilities, said: “We have listened to what Ofwat had to say. Installing the software is an important part of our digital strategy. There are a host of different things that we can use the robots for to help us provide an even better service for the seven million customers we serve.”
The company plans to automate more tasks and activities across the business in what goes much further than a traditional review of back-office procedures. The changes being introduced will streamline many of the company’s processes, creating a real impact and having a tangible effect on customer services and operations. We are working with them to achieve this, providing technical expertise to set up the architecture and software, coding the automations, and managing the delivery of all the various work streams. What’s more, we’re teaching United Utilities to do it all themselves too, so once a new feature comes online, they’re completely self-sufficient in running it and building the next one.
A bright future
RPA is providing a platform for future initiatives to deploy AI and cognitive technology. Duncan Barnes from Deloitte in the UK sees RPA as “providing the ‘arms and legs’ to enable the ‘brain’ to act.” What that might mean in the future can be seen from the range of other initiatives United Utilities is investigating. These include automating the management of customer complaints and changes of tenancy, as well as helping to monitor reservoir levels and water pressure in the network, and scheduling daily domestic water samples to ensure the company continues to meet its stringent compliance obligations. There are even plans for an unseen ‘staff’ of software robots to monitor United Utilities’ network for faults, automatically informing engineers of any alerts they receive, so the problems can be located and fixed before they affect customers.
The work we’re doing with United Utilities will also extend beyond the water industry. The application of RPA and other digital technologies we’re looking at will radically transform the effectiveness of organisations that adopt them. Many of our clients are already seeing the benefits of this: it’s not just the water industry that these robots are revolutionising.