Mia PAHO bot RPA
Photo: PAHO

PAHO Welcomes Mia and Max, Their First ‘Digital Workers’

The New Bots Developed by UNICC and PAHO Support the Procurement Process of Covid-19 Vaccines 

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has added two Acquisitions Technician to their Procurement and Supply Management team, two new members that can work 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, year-round. Mia and Max are PAHO’s first ever bots, and they have been developed by UNICC’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) team alongside PAHO’s Procurement and IT teams.

The robots execute repetitive and time-consuming tasks, allowing the human team to forget about the paperwork and focus on strategic aspects of the procurement function, such as establishing the needs of the countries served by PAHO and enhancing relationships with suppliers. 

Mia – Assisting the Purchase of Strategic Products 

Mia automates the purchase order requisition process. The bot downloads data from a spreadsheet report and uses it to fill in specific details in the ERP software Workday. A unique feature of this solution is that it is able to detect if a memo is written in Spanish and translate it into English.

A single purchase order requisition takes a human buyer an average processing time of 20 minutes, while Mia is able to do the same work in approximately 5 to 8 minutes, thanks to automating redundant and time consuming steps.

Mia and Max are helping other team members with transactional tasks, so they can focus on better serving our countries. These bots are a great example of what UNICC can do to support the UN Family.

Daniel Rodrigues, Director, Procurement and Supply Management, PAHO

Since Mia’s first day at work, the bot has been helping buyers with the purchase of strategic products, including Covid-19 vaccines for the American countries.

Mia is an unattended bot, which means that it is programmed to start at a specific time and keep working until there are no more purchase order requisitions in the to-do list. Then it waits until the next scheduled run to complete a new list. Mia is easily scalable – as seen with the push for Covid-19 vaccine distribution, the bot is able to process planned and unplanned increases in volume, helping to expedite the purchase of the much needed vaccine.

Max – More than a Software, a Key Member of the Team

Max is a robotic solution that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to automatically create Advance Shipment Notifications (ASN). The bot reads shipping documents, extracts relevant data points and adds them into Workday.

The creation of ASN is not only a time-consuming process, but it is prone to human error, due to the many data points that must be transferred from documents to the ERP software. With the new solution the PAHO team saves time and reduces the risk of errors in the documentation.

The bot is currently being trained. After it completes the task, it sends the document to a validation station where a human team member reviews and confirms the data has been correctly extracted. With each validation, Max increases its confidence level, and as time progresses its precision will be high enough for PAHO to allow ‘Straight Pass Through’ extraction. After validation, the bot enters the confirmed data into the system, after which the ASN is created.

The bot works on automatically completing the documentation on vaccine lots and batch numbers, as well as manufacture and expiration dates, a process that was not included in the previous manual system.

Beyond Mia and Max, the Potential of RPA

PAHO’s RPA journey with UNICC started on April 2020 with an initial analysis of automating opportunities.

PAHO’s IT team initially experimented with setting up its own infrastructure for RPA using Automation Anywhere and setting up its own MS Azure environments. However, PAHO decided to switch to UNICC’s “Bot as a Service” to leverage their RPA expertise and since that was more cost effective.

Patrick Hinderdael, Director, Information Technology Services, PAHO

With the experience of having delivered multiple automation solutions to over 15 UN Clients across various domains such as travel, finance, procurement, HR, IT and healthcare, the UNICC’s RPA team started developing Mia and Max in October 2020.

We at UNICC are proud to help launch Mia and Max, and do our little bit to support the life-saving work of PAHO.

Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC

The joint team is now exploring which other repetitive functions within the Procurement and Supply Management unit in PAHO could be automated, and hope to add more digital workers that will allow their human team mates to increase their efficiency and productivity.

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UNICC RPA Solutions

Finalists of Firsts: Team Trojan Army for the COVID-19 Open Challenge

2021 so far has held several ‘firsts’ for UNICC, one being the organization’s first Global Hackathon: Data for Good, where international engagement of ambitious students was a rich and valuable experience for all staff, mentors, students, teams and judges involved. 

In the spirit of ‘firsts,’ one participating team for the first challenge of the Hackathon, the COVID-19 Open Challenge, particularly shared in this sentiment: Team Trojan Army of PSG College of Technology, India, who, in their first year of university embarked on their first data analytics study, entered and became a finalist in their first hackathon.

Asvika M., Narini A., Nithiya Shri S. and Shri Vignesh S. of PSG College of Technology, after a few months of attending their first year of their undergraduate studies, received from their professor a link to register for the Global Hackathon. The four students, who knew each other from their university classes, signed up and entered under the name Team Trojan Army. For the next few days, the students successfully developed a solution that got them into the final.

UNICC’s Global Hackathon: Data for Good launched on Tuesday, 16 February 2021 with an introduction from the organization’s executive leadership to a global audience of UNICC and other UN organizations’ staff members, university representatives and over 140 students. Following the introductory remarks from UNICC’s Director Sameer Chauhan and Chief of Digital Business Solutions Ninna Roco, Anusha Dandapani, Chief of Data Analytics, introduced the three challenges of the hackathon: COVID-19 Open Challenge, Refugee Crisis: Predict Forced Displacement, and the UN75 Visualization Challenge.

From the start of the Hackathon, Team Trojan Army faced several obstacles. Notably, though all students were eager to tackle these challenges and learn more about data analytics, none of them had formally studied it; Asvika, Narini and Nithiya are pursuing degrees in Cybersecurity, and Shri in Engineering. 

We split up the work into four different parts, but the first day of the Hackathon was pure learning. We didn’t know how to read the data, how to create the graphs– everything was completely new.

Shri Vignesh S., Team Trojan Army, PSG College of Technology

However, through publicly available instructions on how to effectively navigate data analytics software, the guidance of the mentors and the like-minded tenacity to build the best possible presentation within the fixed time frame, Team Trojan Army delivered and presented as finalists their solution to the COVID Open Challenge.

To build their solution, the students approached the challenge holistically. By using Pandas, Excel and Power BI, they manipulated the data and constructed visualisations of global and national rates of COVID-19 transmission and deaths in the U.S. and in Europe. In addition to data visualisations of trends in the virus itself, the team also provided graphs measuring the economic impact of the international handling of the global pandemic, comprehensively tying in key factors such as a nation’s GDP, unemployment and currency inflation rate. 

Lastly, Team Trojan Army proposed several innovative solutions to the eradication of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these included the construction of an international facility to oversee the global COVID-19 vaccine distribution as encouraged by the World Health Organization and UN Secretary-General António Guterres

The students also included other suggested solutions to the pandemic such as entrepreneurial economic models and an increase in federal spending to jumpstart job markets, in addition to the creation of a mobile app to facilitate location-based vaccine and virus tracking to curb the prolonging of the pandemic. 

Credit: UNICC

In an interview following the Hackathon, the team commented on how much they take away from the experience. “In one of the mentor sessions,” Asvika recalled, “we learned that the data has a narrative, and we need to create that.” 

The students also mentioned how influential the Hackathon has been to their future plans in the field of data science, learning from the solutions of other finalists and winners. The students came to see first-hand in their research more about the UN and the extent of its work through the data sets provided. “We went from a point of knowing little to nothing to presenting our solutions in front of UN representatives. That in itself was a major achievement for us, nothing short of astonishing.” This was their final first… and just the beginning of a learning journey.

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This article is part of a series of stories from the first UNICC Global Hackathon: Data for Good that took place in February 2021. The hackathon drew registrations from a total of 140 students from 54 universities located in 13 countries around the globe, all of whom came together to tackle three major UN related challenges: COVID-19 Open Challenge, Refugee Crisis: Predict Forced Displacement, and the UN75 Visualization Challenge. To learn more about this successful event and its wonderful finalists, please refer to this article here.