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"eSpecs Robotics

In 2019, the data center in Riga implemented eSpecs robotics, and since September it has been working with a software robot for handling emails, including product specifications provided by suppliers. Simply put, it is software trained to mimic human behavior. Companies like Pepsico and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also use the underlying technology. However, the eSpecs robot is in-house software developed by the LSG Group for the LSG Group.

“Robotic process automation (RPA) utilizes software robots and artificial intelligence,” explains Program Director Ilia Nalobine, who leads the project, which is a joint effort between the Europe and EMMA regions. “Our software robot uses a technique called screen scraping or screen harvesting to extract data visually, like a human would do.” The benefits are obvious. Because the eSpecs robot has no learning curve, it can be fast and flexible. The data center team trained it that way.


DNA of Latvia and Riga – Paris of the North

The Latvian capital, Riga. In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, which describes the ease of doing business in a country, Latvia currently ranks 19 (Germany: #22).

What may be strange or even frightening for some is a welcome addition for our colleagues in Riga. Here, nobody fears a rise of the robots. In fact, Latvia is known for enjoying remarkable internet speeds thanks to its extensive fiber-optic communication network. In 2016, the country passed a law to provide special support for hi-tech startups. The data center also benefits from governmental organizations. For example, web-based training and employee business trips have been partly subsidized. The further development of robotics and similar projects are also very likely to receive support from the Latvian state.

“Change is positive,” emphasizes Nalobine. “We need advancements in technology to be ready for the future. In addition, our suppliers were asking if we could optimize processes through automation.”

Signing of Subsidiary Agreement for the Service Support Center in Riga (RIX) - training program for our employees (from left to right): Andris Ozols, General Director Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, Zigmars Vestfals, Business development, Andris Balickis, Managing Director Baltic States

Andris Balickis, Managing Director Baltic's Estonia/Latvia/Lithuania, adds: “Latvia is very open to new ideas and innovation in general; it is in this country’s DNA. There is a lot of support from the government. Our country really embraces digitalization.” eSpecs robotics directly benefited from the nation’s openness. “We reached out to Latvia’s Investment and Development Agency (LIAA) and presented our idea for eSpecs robotics,” continues Balickis. “They were really supportive and offered to introduce us to experts and also provided financial support.”

This is a Job for SpecMan

Since November, Riga’s little helper also has a name: SpecMan. Baiba Berzisa, Procurement and Quality MD Senior Manager, is responsible for eSpecs & Quality at the LSG Group’s data center. Together with her 11-strong team, she quickly appreciated SpecMan’s abilities. “We used to spend a lot of time with transferring data from Excel sheets to the data base. This left us with less time to check, harmonize and improve the data. Now we have SpecMan performing the data transfer. And we can focus more on data quality,” says Baiba. “This also give us chance to be more competitive in a growing economic market. We can do more with the same amount of people and SpecMan than before.”

eSpecs and Quality Team DS RIX (from left to right): Aris Elbers, Oskars Grikovs, Sintija Bruge, Edite Olsevska, Baiba Berzisa, SpecMan, Jekaterina Baldujeva, Agnese Kulackovska, Zane Grikova, Sanita Soloveika. Missing in picture but part of the team: Anastasija Naumova, Rodrigo Manfrinatti, Kristofers Vaitonis

Over time, SpecMan will save costs as the data center team will be able to deal with more tasks without increasing the department’s headcount. When asked if she and her team worry about losing their jobs to automation, Berzisa stresses the team’s attitude toward robotics is different: “We understand that the future is digital and we are happy to implement robotics. We are not afraid of robots, they are not replacing us, they are helping us. And we have more time to focus on suppliers and quality issues.”

In order to bolster this attitude, the eSpecs project involved the whole team from the beginning. “Our team is very motivated, so you need to be honest and transparent when implementing new things,” asserts Nalobine. “We had to gain trust.” His formula for success: “Get the right technology and people, trust your partner and invest in change management.” In the end, SpecMan has helped the team to grow even closer together.

eSpecs robotics is not only a best practice for the LSG Group’s advancement in terms of digitalization. It also demonstrates the collaborative side of human technology interaction, as well as the successful cooperation between the Europe and EMMA regions. The data center team is already thinking about new tasks for SpecMan, so maybe it will not be a “one-robot show” for long. By the end of the year, the team will evaluate potentials based on supplier requests.

Meeting with the Industry (from left to right): Zigmars Vestfals, Business Development, Ralfs Nemiro, Minister of Economics in the Republic of Latvia, Andris Balickis, Managing Director Baltic States




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