Software robotics is an intermediate stage in automation
The massive volume of applications during the coronavirus epidemic in the spring pointed out the weakness of the current system. The solution is the development of automation in which software robots are an intermediate stage.
There is a place for a robot in the process
We were faced with an enormous challenge when the coronavirus made companies and organisation lay off their personnel during the spring. The number of unemployment benefit applications exploded over a short period of time, and tens of thousands of people had to wait for the processing of their application. That called for a whole new approach from the YTK staff, because smooth and uncomplicated service is something we take for granted and are used to offering to our members. It felt bad when our customers who are used to quick service had to wait for their money due to the growing volume of applications. Our customers are justifiably anxious about the situation – and so are we.
Many people have asked during the spring why the applications for daily allowance can’t be processed more quickly in the age of artificial intelligence and blockchains. That is a good question that also interests us. As the processing work is currently a combination of system automation and work done by humans, the fastest way to respond to the flood of applications was to recruit and induct 85 new application processing employees to clear the congestion. In addition, we identified places in the process to which we could add automation using software robotics.
YTK’s platform leans on automation and supports robots
We implemented important tools for easier application for unemployment allowance already years ago, when we developed online service OmaYTK for our members. When a person applies for daily allowance through OmaYTK they benefit already now from highly advanced automation. The benefit is linked to the fact that OmaYTK guides the user and collects information for the decision so that the information we receive is of high quality. Of course we sometimes have to contact the applicants to check some details. However, the details of the application are mainly checked already when the applicant fills out the application in OmaYTK.
This spring it became possible to retrieve income information of private individuals directly from the national Incomes Register. That is a significant improvement and will further increase the possibilities of automation. The use of information from the Incomes Register allowed YTK to introduce quickly RPA technology, or robotics, to process the flood of applications. We released a new version of OmaYTK in April, in the middle of the coronavirus crisis. The changes in OmaYTK enabled us to introduce RPA technology to facilitate the processing work.
Ideally a robot can help a human employee
There are currently six robots working in YTK at different applications. The robots are referred to as “Karhuryhmä”, and each robot has a name. The development and implementation was initiated very quickly in March–April, and we have now been testing the operation of the robots in the processing of applications for three weeks. The experience is positive. The robots help the processing employees by completing certain stages before the processing employee starts to process the application.
The robots would have the technical abilities to complete the processing work for a decision, but the complicated and detailed unemployment security legislation has not yet fully opened the way for robots – so most applications still require the contribution of a human being who knows the details of unemployment security. One big challenge, for example, is calculating the amount of earnings-related daily allowance. The monthly salary rarely matches the earnings information in the Incomes Register, and then a human employee has to check what the reason of the difference is. Typically the reason is an occasional income item which is not detailed in the Incomes Register.
In any case a robot is able to help human employees in their work. We are sure that through co-operation between humans and robots we will be able to clear the enormous backlog of applications by the end of the summer.
Goal at system automation
Robotics is nowadays very common and it is highly useful when applied correctly. Due to the complicated nature of unemployment security, a robot cannot replace a human processing employee, and it is not possible in general to make the best use of it. It is clear that software robotics in the processing of applications is just an intermediate stage on the way to system automation. System automation requires developing the legislation related to issuing of decisions and above all developing the unemployment security in such a way that the structural information in the registers would be enough to make a decision on the right to receive a benefit.
Sanna Alamäki, Managing Director