How the quarantine economy ignites digital transformation
The novel coronavirus has clearly affected businesses of all sizes across the world. It challenged enterprises to modify their operations and survive from the possible risks of the quarantine. And while the world is trying to pull through, there is one factor that businesses have to leverage during and after this pandemic is over – digital transformation.
Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology in the business, fundamentally changing how you deliver value to the customers and meet the changing market requirements.
Eastern Communications, a Philippine-based telco and ICT (information and communication technology) solutions provider, believes that harnessing digital transformation is a strategic approach for businesses during this time.
“Digital transformation is already upon us, way before COVID-19 and the quarantine economy happened. However, it was not recognised as crucial for the business operations than it is now,” shared Eastern Communications Sales Division Head Michael Castañeda.
The outbreak has changed our way of living and businesses might now have to take a second look at transforming their workplace or it will fail in the long run.
Understanding the new normal
Most people are currently staying at home, relying on their gadgets and devices to get the information or things they want. Some businesses are forced to go digital, and usual activities like ordering food, paying bills, watching movies, and shopping for essentials are now preferably done remotely.
According to Castañeda, the current situation serves as a heads up for many businesses to recalibrate their processes not only during this time but even after the quarantine. People will soon change the way they do things and companies will have to adapt to the ‘new normal’.
“Companies that instigate digital transformation are experiencing a competitive advantage in their respective industries. It allows companies to adjust to the situation better versus a company that has not gone through their digital transformation journey. A company which is digitally prepared has systems and processes in place to help them react and adapt better,” he stressed.
While working from home will be seen as the new normal in the workplace, companies should also look deeper into investing in cloud technologies more than ever. Cloud is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage, over the internet, which allows increased work efficiency and collaboration within the organisation. This can prevent organisations from halting operations even in challenging situations such as COVID-19 pandemic.
For years, Eastern Communications has been supporting businesses to harness the potential of digital innovation. This includes encouraging cloud first strategy. Eastern Cloud, for example, is one of the company’s ICT solutions that aims to foster work efficiency and agility no matter the circumstances.
Involving the organisation
Digital transformation is a combination of technological and organisational change.
Although digitising processes is a major indicator, organisational change management plays a big part in the success of business innovation.
“Digital transformation is not just about the integration of the technology to the business operation or methods, but also about how the organisation adapts and reacts to the changes it may have caused,” said Castañeda.
More than gaining profit through automation, companies should consider a more skills-based model in which technology is judged according to its ability to augment the capabilities of workers.
The COVID-19 outbreak is expected to last for a long period of time, and it will change our everyday routine to a great extent. Leveraging digital transformation will help businesses improve their competency and achieve their goals even when the pandemic subsides.
Amazon test new technology to improve employee safety
At the Amazon Robotics and Advanced Technology labs in Boston, and Northern Italy, team members are testing and developing new technologies in order to help to make employees’ jobs safer, these include technologies that help move carts and packages through Amazon facilities.
Recently the safety of Amazon's warehouses has drawn scrutiny. On June 1, the Washington Post's Jay Greene and Chris Alcantara published findings from an analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration data showing Amazon's serious injury rates are nearly double those at other companies' facilities.
A spokesperson from Amazon said the company spent more than $1 billion last year on safety measures, and hired more than 6,200 employees to a group dedicated to workplace health and safety.
One innovation being tested by Amazon, which is in early development, is the use of motion-capture technology to assess the movement of volunteer employees in a lab setting. These employees perform tasks that are common in many Amazon facilities, such as the movement of totes, which carry products through robotic fulfillment centers.
The motion-capture software enables Amazon scientists and researchers to more accurately compare data captured in a lab environment to industry standards rather than other modelling tools traditionally used by ergonomists.
“With this data, visualisations, and employee feedback, we are looking to identify relatively simple changes that can make a big impact,” said Kevin Keck, worldwide director of Advanced Technology at Amazon. “Something as simple as changing the position of handles on totes may help lower the risk of injuries to our employees at a massive scale.”
Autonomous Robots creating new paths to safety
In order to reduce the need for employees to reach up or bend down when retrieving items, Amazon is testing a new workstation system called “Ernie.” According to the company Ernie takes totes off of a robotic shelf and uses a robotic arm to deliver it to employees, so they can remain in a more comfortable and stable position.
“We’re known for being passionate about innovating for customers, but being able to innovate with robotics for our employees is something that gives me an extra kick of motivation each day,” said Keck. “The innovation with a robot like Ernie is interesting because while it doesn’t make the process go any faster, we’re optimistic, based on our testing, it can make our facilities safer for employees.”
“Bert” is one of Amazon’s first Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), and is being tested to autonomously navigate through facilities with Amazon-developed advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology. In the future, it is thought that an employee would be able to summon Bert to carry items across a facility.
‘Scooter’ and ‘Kermit’ are two other robots that also operate autonomously, and are both transport cars. The carts are used to carry empty totes and packages through our facilities.
In a blog post the company said: ‘By having Autonomously Guided Carts (AGCs) like Scooter and Kermit perform physical tasks, we believe we can make our facilities safer and enable our employees to focus on jobs that require their critical thinking skills. In addition, using an AGC like Scooter to pull carts through our facilities reduces the risk of strains on our employees, or even collisions. We currently plan to deploy Scooter to at least one Amazon facility this year.’
Amazon began using robotics in its facilities in 2012, and since then they have added more than 1 million jobs worldwide while simultaneously deploying 350,000 mobile drive unit robots.
“The role robotics and advanced technology can play in not only innovating for customers, but helping make our facilities safer, is a massive motivation for me and my team,” said Keck. “The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority. By listening to them, innovating on their behalf, and driving new technologies into our facilities over the coming months and years, I’m confident we’ll make a big contribution to our goal of reducing recordable incidents by 50% by 2025.”