Robot protects residents

Cheryl Hart , Wednesday 28 July 2021

Some background information

At Redbridge we want to provide the best opportunities for our residents to have a safer home and accommodation that meets their needs. We needed to speed up the property licensing process as we had developed a back log of applications which was proving hard to get get on top of. The current process required a lot of manual input and was time consuming and monotonous for staff.

Due to the volumes of licences received during an early bird period in 2018 (where customers received a discount) we had been playing catch up ever since. This was stopping the team tackling other important work and improving their skill set.

Should we automate?

To help identify the best way forward, IT set about shadowing the licensing officers and with the help of two volunteers, they identified what areas of our manual process could be replaced by a robotic enhancement.

Once these opportunities were identified and agreed the design and content of the new automated licensing process pathway were designed and implemented with the support of our digital partner, PwC.

Making everything work together

At our initial meeting with PwC , it was important that everyone understood what needed to be achieved and agreed the stages and timescales for implementation.

  • Processing staff had to engage regularly in trialing the various development spurts and provide feedback on any problems that arose
  • The robot had three specific areas that it picked up work and moved applications on depending on specific agreed algorithms and check points
  • Each week a different area of work was trialled and signed offFina
  • Finally, after four weeks or so, part one of the robot process was launched overnight. Stage two and three followed during the proceeding weeks
  • Staff had to identify any files they did not want the robot to process until they had dealt with any current issues they were trying to resolve with the applicant
  • An entry was made on these applications which stopped them advancing until released by an officer

What we achieved?

Within two months of developing, the robot was up and running and making a difference to our working lives. The selective licences were being completed at a rate of 1,000 per fortnight rather than 500 a month (this was a four fold increase in productivity).

Staff were able to concentrate on other work and embrace this slight change of role after four years of doing the same monotonous tasks.

The licence back log has now been cleared and daily applications are managed in a timely fashion. Staff now concentrate on more complex cases i.e. Houses of Multiple Occupation licences and can provide a better customer service than before as they have more time to engage with customers over the phone.

Changing the culture

Initially the team, as expected, were very suspicious of digitalisation and the effect it would have on their jobs. However, in reality it has assisted us to deliver a better service and has provided the team with new opportunities to develop their skills, try new things and to explore new proactive income streams of work which have been sitting on the back burner for a few years now. My advice would be carpe diem! - seize the day!

Watch the landlord licensing application video