Article | 3.7.2023

Five years ago it was feared that robots would take our jobs – now AI threatens the same, or is the fear exaggerated? At Hoas, robots were welcomed colleagues


About five years ago, software robotics became a hot topic on the media. When this new technology came to the attention of the general public, many feared that its introduction would replace human labor in many industries. Now with the release of new artificial intelligence programs such as Chat GPT, a similar fear covers the news headlines. But contrary to the previous beliefs, robots have not replaced humans. At Hoas, robots were welcomed colleagues and helpers during busy rush hours.

Hoas started using robotics in 2017, when the technology was still very new and few companies used it. At the time, the Housing and construction foundation was a pioneer in its field, and no real estate or construction company in Finland used it yet. The interest in this brand new technology started from the fact that Hoas strongly wanted to invest in developing its operations and improve customer service.

"Hoas had a lot of repetitive and cyclical work that was very time-consuming. These routine tasks affected the level of customer service, and we wanted to improve it", explains Matti Tarhio, CEO of Hoas.

Hoas chose Sisua Digital (formerly Korkia) as its automation partner and processing their housing applications was chosen as the first robotization target. Processing applications was laborious and took a lot of resources, especially during the summer.

"In the summer, over 1,000 applications could come in one day, and the information had to be checked and sorted out. The process involves a huge amount of internal back-end work that is not visible to the customer. The robot was developed to help in the various stages of application processing," says Tarhio.

The peak season during summer burdened the customer service experts, and processing was slow when handled manually. The implementation of the robot halved the processing times for apartment applications, and the customers thus also received information about obtaining an apartment more quickly.

"When the robots took care of the tedious background work, the employees could focus more on interacting with the customer," explains Tarhio.

Robots did not create redundancies at Hoas, but improved customer service, efficiency and employee satisfaction – the wide-spread adoption of artificial intelligence will likely have a similar effect

At Hoas, implementing robots did not result in unemployment, and for the employees, the robots were welcomed colleagues.

"Our employees had an extremely positive attitude towards robots, and they were not seen as a threat but really as an opportunity. Robots also had a positive effect on employee satisfaction, as monotonous routine tasks decreased and more time was left for meaningful work," says Tarhio.

In addition, customer service and efficiency improved.

"Automation sped up customer service, improved its quality and made it possible to work around the clock. Through robotics, we were able to make use of nights and weekends, as if we were working 24/7", describes Tarhio.

"Using this technology increased the office's performance and employee satisfaction and improved the quality level by reducing human errors," explains Tarhio.

In five years, the large-scale utilization of artificial intelligence will probably look similar to how the utilization of robotics is seen today.

"Robotics is already widely used, but the use of artificial intelligence in companies is still quite new. Software robotics makes routine work more efficient, while artificial intelligence makes tasks related to creativity, thinking or combining data more efficient," Tarhio estimates.

Robotics frees up working hours from routine tasks to creative thinking, problem solving and customer service. Artificial intelligence, in turn, supports employees in enhancing decision-making, creative work and analyzing data masses, which improves productivity and profitability.

"The waves of technology have progressed in a way that first physical work done by hands and feet was made more efficient, and now it has extended to thinking and cognitive work," says Tarhio.

The predictions about the impact of robotics on employment did not materialize as extensively as initially believed

Looking back now, we can say that the fear of mass unemployment was exaggerated, or at least the fear did not materialize nearly to the extent that was predicted.

"Technological breakthroughs always arouse fear. In the past, for instance, trains caused fear among people as there were doubts about the human psyche's ability to withstand train travel. This phenomenon is characteristic of major innovations, and it is perfectly normal for such thoughts to arise," explains Tarhio.

Although the use of robotics, especially in Finland, is already widespread, robots have not extensively replaced jobs but rather reshaped roles and enhanced efficiency. While certain jobs or tasks may gradually become obsolete due to technological development, new technologies also generate new job opportunities.

"In the long run, these technologies will transform the labor market. Routine work will increasingly be automated," Tarhio affirms.

"Hoas has already conducted research and utilized artificial intelligence in marketing. I believe that within the next year, we will further explore where it can be leveraged. Artificial intelligence is an incredible opportunity and not just a threat," Tarhio continues.

Technology is the solution to respond to market changes

"The market has evolved in a way that everything should happen quickly, information cannot be transmitted three days or a week later. Instead, we need to find technologies that enhance efficiency. Robotics and artificial intelligence enable better response to customer expectations. Technological advancements are progressing at an enormous pace, and it's essential to keep up with these developments," explains Tarhio.

"Competition is constantly intensifying, putting pressure on business transformation. Changes need to be implemented in the right way, leveraging the wave of technology while ensuring the continuity of core operations," Tarhio suggests.

According to Tarhio, finding good partners is crucial in times like these.

"Companies can no longer thrive just on their own. When we are operating in such a rapidly moving cycle, it is important to find strong collaborative partners to capitalize on the forefront of development," Tarhio concludes.

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