SEOUL, Mar. 20 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korean retail giants are increasingly introducing automated systems to save their employees time on simple tasks as part of efforts to adapt to a shortened workweek, industry sources said Wednesday.
In July last year, South Korea adopted a 52-hour workweek for both private and public firms with 300 or more employees to cut long working hours and help improve work-life balance for workers.
At the vanguard of the new tendency is Shinsegae Group, which introduced a 35-hour workweek on its own, six months before the implementation of the mandatory system.
Shinsegae International, the group’s fashion arm, adopted so-called robotic process automation (RPA) for simple and routine office tasks such as settling with customers and sending emails.
A four-month pilot scheme showed that the time needed to handle related work decreased by as much as 70 percent, Shinsegae said.
Encouraged by the outcome, Shinsegae Group is considering expanding the RPA system to other subsidiaries so that employees can concentrate on more productive work in line with a shortened workweek.
In addition, Shinsegae Department Store plans to start to develop an RPA system this month with the aim of introducing it during the second half of the year.
E-Mart Inc., South Korea’s leading discount chain operator, began to utilize RPA in November to support daily settlement work at its outlets.
The company reportedly reached the conclusion that the system could save 14,000 working hours per year.
E-Mart said it is aiming to introduce a new RPA system that can be applied to a broad range of tasks, including accounting and supporting imports.
Lotte Group, South Korea’s top retail conglomerate, has jumped on the RPA bandwagon, too.
Lotte Homeshopping applied RPA to customer counseling work like checking products’ fine print in July last year.
The group is also weighing plans to introduce the RPA system for Lotte Department Store and its convenience store chain.
In August last year, Lotte Group launched an e-commerce division to develop an integrated service application covering its seven retail subsidiaries by 2020.