The robots are here and they’re doing your invoices
Samuel Hoh founded Robot-Hub, a company which enables robots to do repetitive tasks usually performed by accountants.
- Samuel Hoh is founder of Auckland-based tech company Robot-Hub.
- He switched an accounting career for software development to drive efficiency across finance teams.
- Hoh sees robots as a force for good, rather than a threat to the livelihood of accountants.
The robots aren’t coming – they’re already here. Just ask Samuel Hoh, founder of Auckland-based tech company Robot-Hub, who switched an accounting career for software development to drive efficiency across finance teams. Hoh sees robots as a force for good, rather than a threat to the livelihood of accountants.
“They’re not here to take your job,” says Hoh, a presenter at the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Future Focused Accounting Conference 2022.
“They just take on the repetitive, low-skill task, so you’re free to build up skills in more value-add areas.”
Pictured: Samuel Hoh, Robot-Hub founder
Hoh started Robot-Hub almost four years ago as what he describes as a “side hustle” while working as a senior systems analyst at Air New Zealand. But his interest in automation stems back to his first job out of university.
“I was working as an accountant for a finance company and I started automating some of my daily tasks using a small programming module (VBA) within Excel,” says Hoh. “I managed to expand on that code to slowly automate more and more of my accounting tasks and within a few months I was only working two days out of five.
“I thought that if I could use Excel to create such an impact on my job, what else could I do with more advanced tools? So, I taught myself software development and programming languages and became really excited about the potential of software to make a lot of accountant's lives easier.”
Robot-Hub works with clients across a range of industry sectors and employs a team of four humans and a robot called Jim, who functions primarily as an accounts assistant. Jim works around the clock and can read and process incoming documents, such as invoices and purchase orders, at up to five times the rate of humans.
“Jim can look for a purchase order number on supplier invoices, for example, and match it against outstanding purchase orders,” explains Hoh. “If a match is found, Jim enters the invoice into the system.”
Automation as a service
Robot-Hub can automate any task currently done on a computer, but Hoh says finance tasks are generally the starting point for most clients.
“The reason why so many of my clients are from the finance background is because that was initially my career domain,” says Hoh. “But, once I finish automating the accounts receivables and payables tasks, clients often get me across different departments, like the dispatch team or the warehousing team.”
Robot-Hub’s model is based on automation as a service. The company’s human team provides an overview of all the tasks a robot can take on for a particular business and then calculates the number of ongoing robot hours required to do the job. While there are no upfront costs, clients must commit to at least six months of work. Jim is then programmed to take on the specific tasks.
Hoh says his robots’ salary is on average 65% lower than their human counterpart on a full-time wage and on average take 50% less time than a human to perform the same task.
“We plan to put a robot in every medium-sized organisation in Auckland,” says Hoh. “Our model is about efficient economies of scale, and we want to pass that back to the market so that medium-sized organisations get a chance at automation. They don't need to pay a six-figure proof-of-concept, just to have some test robots come in. We quote the number of hours – if a human takes five hours to do a task our robots can do it in three hours at the most for only NZ$13 (A$11.85) an hour, but continue doing the work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Power to the people
At the upcoming the Future Focused Accounting Conference, Hoh will share insights, case studies and real-world applications of robotics to organisational processes.
“The first response from processing staff about robots coming in to help do their work is that they're worried about their job,” says Hoh. “So far, all of my clients who have implemented robots have seen their processing staff go on to do more analytical work and the stuff that actually gives more insights to management.”
“All of my clients who have implemented robots have seen their processing staff go on to do more analytical work and the stuff that actually gives more insights to management.”
“Robots aren’t about taking jobs from humans, although we like to humanise them at Robot-Hub,” adds Hoh.
“We can talk about how we have all this amazing technology that can read stuff and make life easier, but if we say that Jim the robot is an accounts assistant who can do everything from processing invoicing and matching purchase orders, we're able to get the idea across that whatever humans can do in terms of repetitive office tasks, robots have the same capability.”
Hear more from Samuel Hoh at the upcoming Future Focused Accounting Conference 2022
Join us online, 9 and 10 June to hear how new technologies, methods and processes are redefining the finance function. Hoh’s session will focus on future-proofing organisations through robotics, automation and finance transformation.