Robots Reshape the Workplace
Robots Reshape the Workplace

Robots are transforming the way we work. Paperwork chores that took more than 10 hours for humans to complete can now be done in a fraction of the time by software robots – and we can expect to see more and more robot co-workers in future.


Robots have moved out of the realms of science fiction and into the workplace as businesses increasingly use software robots to carry out routine tasks previously done by employees.


Software robots use artificial intelligence to mimic the way workers process paperwork, but perform tasks quicker, more accurately, and without stopping.


They can effortlessly handle a broad range of time-consuming, tedious office tasks such as data processing, expense report entries, and dealing with customer queries. More advanced software robots can even review complex legal documents and contracts.


The technology behind the software robots – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – has empowered companies to streamline their work processes, increase employee productivity, and handle a growing volume of online orders and customer queries.


Uphill march of robots

Robots are already firmly established in the workplace. More than 70% of respondents in a Deloitte global survey of executives said their organisations have used intelligent automation in 2020, a steep increase on the numbers for the previous year.


CLP is among the many businesses embracing intelligent software robots. The company set up a Process Automation Tribe in 2019, with tribe leaders from various business units appointed to promote a digital-first culture.


“RPA may sound like rocket science but it isn’t,” explains tribe leader and Senior Customer Solutions Manager Alex Man. “It is now widely incorporated into our business operations and daily workflows. 


“Employees can take advantage of the technology to automate repetitive tasks and streamline tedious work processes. It allows them to concentrate on more valuable work.”


Staff at Customer Interaction Centre
RPA allows CLP to handle repetitive tasks with greater speed, efficiency, and accuracy.



Under the initiative, tribe leaders are responsible for leading the changes and providing technical support and guidance in the development of a range of RPA projects.


They conduct desktop research and identify automation tools and resources needed for a company-wide transformation. Study groups are set up to conduct small-scale trials and scrutinise any cybersecurity and data governance risks.


The benefits are potentially huge, Man believes. “For the company as a whole, the technology helps drive operational efficiency and lower costs,” he says.


Learning to live with robots

CLP has adopted a decentralised, self-directed learning approach to encourage its employees to speed up automation and digitalisation in their work processes. The approach focuses on seven key elements shown in the picture below.

Seven Elements for RPA Adoption

Seven Elements for RPA Adoption

Employees are encouraged to self-learn by drawing on training resources and toolkits available on the company’s intranet portals.


“We hope that the implementation of RPA can help upskill colleagues, drive higher accuracy and efficiency in the workplace, and enhance customer satisfaction,” says Man.


More than 130 business processes at CLP have already incorporated RPA, bringing a range of major benefits to different business units across the company.


Fast solutions to tedious chores

One successful RPA project implemented at CLP is the validation of Hong Kong identity card data, an initiative led by Customer Solutions Analyst Alex Lei.


“After studying a variety of technologies on the market, we identified a machine learning tool to help extract information from the identity documents presented by our customers,” Lei says.


The tool, called Optical Character Recognition (OCR), applies learning algorithms to read, capture, and extract essential data, text, and symbols from documents, contracts, bank cheques, drawings, and other paperwork.



How Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Works

How Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Works

Before OCR was introduced in late 2019, all personal documents including identity cards, billing accounts, and addresses for applicants had to be handled manually by the Residential Customer Experience team.


Customer Relations Manager Lam Chun Wa says: “RPA has significantly improved work efficiency and reduced our workload. We can now focus on more complex tasks that require human judgement and creativity, allowing us to give better service to customers.”


Since the introduction of OCR, the technology has proved its value by processing more than 19,000 cases – more than 80% of total cases – improving life for employees and customers alike.


Robots are colleagues not rivals

The rise of robots in the workplace inevitably stirs up fears among some people that automation will cause job losses and redundancies as it takes over tasks previously carried out by humans.


Lei and his team have therefore engaged with colleagues across the company to show them how, rather than threaten jobs, smart processes can help eliminate human error and free employees to focus on more important tasks.



“The abilities to deliver a great customer experience and exercise good judgement are irreplaceable,” Lei argues. “These are what make our colleagues an indispensable asset to the company.”


The team is also encouraging employees to look at ways of customising and adapting RPA to fulfil specific business needs.


“For us, the strongest motivation comes from our colleagues’ happy faces and the mission of laying the groundwork for the company’s long-running digital transformation,” Lei says. “We look forward to producing more notable results with the application of RPA in different business units.”


Robot and human cartoon
Robots can take on tedious work and free up humans to do other tasks.


In a fast-changing business environment, CLP is embracing digital technology and using intelligent robots as part of its workforce to stay competitive in the business world. 


Feedback from employees has been overwhelmingly positive so far and CLP intends to use RPA more widely in the future as humans and robots work side by side for the good of the business and its customers.