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Number of organisations scaling automation doubles in 2019

6 September 2019

  • Eight per cent of organisations worldwide have deployed over 50 automations, up from four per cent in 2018;
  • However, 60 per cent of organisations have not yet looked into whether automation will require their workers to retrain;
  • Employees working in businesses that have implemented automation are more likely to be supportive of the technology.

The number of organisations that have implemented automation at scale has doubled over the past year, according to new research from Deloitte on robotic and intelligent automation.

Eight per cent of executives globally say they have deployed over 50 automations in their business, such as robotics, machine learning and natural language processing. This is up from four per cent who said the same in 2018. Overall, 58 per cent of organisations across the world have deployed any automation.

The research, based on responses from 523 executives leading organisations in 26 countries with a combined annual turnover of $2.7 trillion, analyses the uptake of automation technologies and its impact on the workforce.

Despite the uptick in adoption, Deloitte’s report finds that a significant proportion of business leaders have not forecast the impact automation technologies will have on their employees. 60 per cent of executives have not yet looked into whether automation will require their workers to retrain and 44 per cent have not looked into whether automation will change the roles and tasks their workers do and the way they do them.

David Wright, partner at Deloitte, said: “Automation has been top of the business agenda for many years, promising to boost productivity, cut costs and redefine the role of the worker. It is exciting to see that the technology is finally being embraced in a sizeable way, but there is now an urgent need for leaders to address the impact it will have on the workforce. A lot more thought needs to be given to the integration of humans and machines and the new roles that will be created.”

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, added: “The recovery from the recession has been job rich but productivity poor. Intelligent automation offers a route to better productivity at a time of great uncertainty.”

Automation will increase workforce capacity by 27% by 2022

As uptake continues to grow, over the next three years executives expect automation to increase workforce capacity by 27%.* This is equivalent to 2.4 million extra full time employees in the 523 organisations that took part in Deloitte’s survey, presenting significant potential to boost productivity.

Previous research by Deloitte in the UK found that the roll-out of automation is unlikely to result in a decline in employment, but instead create new roles. In a 15-year period, occupations with the lowest risk of automation created 3.5 million jobs while those occupations with the highest risk of automation lost 800,000 jobs.

Overall, the majority of workers are positive about automation with workforces that have implemented automation more supportive of the technologies, suggesting that the real impact of automation on the workforce is more positive than first perceived. Just one in eight (12 per cent) executives in organisations implementing or scaling automation say their workforce are unsupportive of it compared to one in three (32 per cent) executives in organisations piloting the technologies.

Wright added: “It’s often anticipated that the rise of automation will result in a swathe of job cuts, but our research shows the opposite. While new roles will be created to work in tandem with machines, there will be a greater demand for more strategic and creative thinking which only humans can bring. Automation will amplify the workforce’s intelligence, not mute it. Humans are creative, strategic, tactical and inventive. Robots are better suited to tasks that humans find difficult and dislike.”

2020 will be the ‘breakout year’ for intelligent automation

With automation rolled-out in many businesses, leaders are now looking towards intelligent automation projects that incorporate both rules-based automation and artificial intelligence based automation.

Intelligent automation mimics basic human judgement, such as reading an email, and performs manual, rules-based, repetitive tasks, like forwarding that email to a different team for handling.

A lack of skills is holding over a third (34%) of executives back from scaling intelligent automation and this shortage is more pronounced in organisations just beginning to use the technology. Three in five (59%) of those piloting automation believe they lack the workforce capacity and skills needed to deliver their strategy.

However, intelligent automation implementations are still exceeding expectations. Organisations piloting intelligent automation expect an average payback period of 15 months, while those in the scaling phase report an average payback after just nine months.

Justin Watson, global robotic and intelligent automation leader at Deloitte, concludes: “2020 looks to be a breakout year for intelligent automation, as organisations combine robotic process automation with artificial intelligence and other technologies to enable new ways of working. By doing so, automations go beyond the routine to the innovative, from collecting and processing data to predicting, analysing and making contextual decisions. Organisations that reimagine how they work, take advantage of a combination of human and machine workforces, and have the skills and knowledge to harness intelligent automation will be best placed to take advantage of the opportunities the technologies promise.”


Note to editors

*Workforce capacity is an organisation’s ability to ensure sufficient staffing levels to accomplish its work processes and successfully deliver products to customers, including the ability to meet seasonal or varying demand levels.

About Deloitte
In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity.

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Deloitte LLP is a subsidiary of Deloitte NSE LLP, which is a member firm of DTTL, and is among the UK's leading professional services firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

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