The coronavirus pandemic has fast-tracked Japan’s digitalization of the workplace, claims a new Nikkei Asian Review study.
In the Japanese industry, skills are often passed on from generation to generation. This has over the years caused major labor shortage problems.
Now with the pandemic making social distancing a norm, companies have begun taking automation seriously and are implementing the same in their offices and factories.
Automation is supported by technologies such as AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The prefectural office of Ibaraki (Tokyo) for one has in recent months used RPA to process the paperwork for paying cash handouts to local companies affected economically by the pandemic.
Many staff could not come in to work, but using RPA allowed the office to cut down 1,800 hours of tasks that were previously done by humans.
According to the U.S. software company and RPA provider UiPath, many companies in Japan are considering implementing RPA technology as working from home becomes more prevalent.
Other companies are using AI in their call centers. Bellsystem 24 Holdings and Sony have developed an AI technique to analyze their customers’ voices and improve answers to frequently asked questions.
As pointed out by the companies, if the resulting ‘data of experience’ is shared among the operators, the call centers can be operated by fewer people.
In the manufacturing sector too, automation is becoming increasingly important for maintaining social distancing practices – something unheard of in a country known for its maestro-protege legacy.
Consultancy McKinsey expects that in the future, 56% of the jobs in Japan could be taken care of by AI or robots – higher than the average figure of 50% it found for 54 countries and regions.
No doubt, advancing technology will inevitably displace some people from jobs, but it could also create new jobs, asserts the Nikkei.
For instance, Microsoft is providing online training in digital technologies for 25 million people.
Google too has begun providing training in data analytics.
As working from home becomes increasingly normal, Microsoft expects that in five years, 149 million jobs will be created around the world in areas such as data analysis.
Image and content: Reuters/Nikkei Asian Review