Premium Service Brands: Task Automation and Data Consolidation; The Effect of Automation in the Modern Workplace & Society

Herring, Jacob, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Vrugtman, Rosanne, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

The Computer Science Capstone portion of my Thesis pertains to my experience as an intern and part-time employee at a local Charlottesville company, Premium Service Brands(PSB). My Capstone explores the work I performed where I attempted to bridge technological gaps in the daily workflows of many of PSB’s employees. This included designing automated workflows in a platform known as Zapier as well as the complete design and implementation of a full-stack web-application for PSB’s internal use. The company had been experiencing disruptions and complications due to improper data entries into their third-party Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Both the Zapier implementation and the custom software were intended to directly address this data entry issue. These two projects are outlined in full in my Capstone, including an in-depth explanation of the design process for both projects as well as their implementation details and end-results. In my Capstone paper, I describe the specific capabilities of the Zapier platform as well as a small subset of the vast number of automated workflows possible using the technology. With regards to the PSB-DataHub project, the paper describes the specific stack of technologies and tools used to construct the software as well the design philosophies which I adhered to throughout the project. While both projects addressed the aforementioned data entry issue, they were also specifically constructed with unknown future use-cases in mind. The open-ended nature of their implementations will allow for additional functionalities to be easily added on top of the systems with minimal complications. This open-ended nature is particularly apparent in the design of the DataHub’s back-end server software, which utilizes a series of Application Program Interface (API) calls that allow for easy manipulation and retrieval of information found within the DataHub’s database.The subject matter of the STS portion of my Thesis was heavily influenced by the work I performed during my time at Premium Service Brands. One common theme between the two projects mentioned above is their intent to abstract away human interaction in order to minimize human error. When I realized the similarities between the two projects, my interest was spurred to examine the overarching effects of automation technologies on our society. And while it would have been simple enough to only examine mechanical automations such as those found in factories or other industrial settings, my specific background and experience with automation software led me to also study more closely automation technology, especially as it pertains to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Our current Revolution is characterized by the rapid adoption of smart technology which can perform tasks without human oversight, often far beyond what was once believed possible by a non-human entity.

My STS paper explores the network of actors involved in the implantation, deployment, and active utilization of smart automation technologies and what each actor stands to lose and gain due to modern automation technology. Throughout history, public attention has often fixated on the negative impacts of automation technology on the individual laborer. I attempted to explore the validity of these impacts and determine whether they are especially applicable in our current day. This was done by determining the various types of automation technology used in prior Industrial Revolutions, examining their socioeconomic impacts, and contrasting their use and nature against automation technology today. What’s more, my paper also addresses the necessary steps that we as a society ought to take in order to address the possible futures which may result from widespread adoption of automation technology. In the event that modern automation technologies displace a vast number of laborers, what kind of recourse (if any) will they be able to reasonably expect? Will modern automation technology allow for the narrowing of income inequality, or will it further exacerbate it? These are all questions which are addressed

BS (Bachelor of Science)
automation, artificial intelligence, society, work, employment, machine learning, industrial revolution

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

Technical Advisor: Rosanne Vrugtman

STS Advisor: Joshua Earle

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