Better Automation

Author: Paul Henriques in: Business Solutions

Better Automation

August 8, 2022

With every passing year, more and more companies are choosing to adopt automated technologies, with most firms looking to automate at least 25% of their tasks over the next five years.

As it is with most technological adoptions, firms tend to start slowly and then expand rapidly after feeling the benefits of automation, like higher productivity, less scrap, lower overhead, or better decisions. Continued automation will usually begin with a simple task and as the benefits are felt, decision-makers will want to add new automated systems wherever possible.

However, as the number of processes that get automated increases, added difficulties can make the whole process seem moot. In many cases, these more complex processes can require that the firm rethink how it is organized to ensure these processes are automated correctly. When this happens, decision-makers have to be proactive.

However, automation is a force that cannot be ignored. All company stakeholders (management, employees, shareholders, and customers) see improved performance and satisfaction with well implemented automated tasks, processes, and systems.

Reasons for Automation

Within the manufacturing sector, automation is imperative and always has been. With your customers, suppliers, and your competitors likely looking for more ways to automate more of their production line, it becomes imperative that you also look at where you can invest time and resources to automate. The issue within manufacturing has often been the cost. However, with decreased costs for automating systems (like new ERP and MES systems) and technology (like optical recognition and nested laser cuts), automating has become a global phenomenon. This means that what was previously a barrier to entry has become a reason to move forward. Other reasons to add automation to a firms’ tasks include improving effectiveness and improving customer and employee experiences.

One of the few reasons to keep from automating is confusion over how to proceed. With few clear options available or a lack of information as to the benefits of automating certain processes, some firms will stick their ground for a while longer and take the chance of missing opportunities to keep the status quo.

Automation Initiatives

Within manufacturing, it can be quite common to focus your automation initiatives on your production floor. While the technology and systems in place on your shop floor are crucial, you should also look to improve your office. A good example of an automation technology that many service firms are adopting, that can affect manufacturing, is the optical character recognition or intelligent document processing. This tech can scan digital documents for specific data and create database records, like scanning a received invoice and creating a record from it. Another common technology is any that can automate a process, like MRP calculations. Finally, implementing smart software can help you manage multiple areas of your business, like case management automation, or hiring campaigns.

Effects of Automation

There are many effects and issues that arise from adding automation to your firm. One of the most visible negative effects is the need to update your training and skill requirements. However, automation can help you here by adding training modules that can track and/or provide:

  • Training to your employees
  • Current employee skills
  • Employee certifications
  • Requires skills for a position or work center
  • Costs associated to new training and skill acquisition

This means that even a negative effect of automation comes with its own group of benefits.

Other areas that see an improvement include:

  • Better quality control
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Improved employee experience
  • Decreased operating expenses
  • Improved reporting
  • Improved decision-making
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved profit

The importance of any benefits received from automation improvements can vary from firm to firm, but any automation provides measurable benefits.

Issues with Automation

With so many benefits so clearly visible, the question becomes why don’t we automate? The reasons to keep from automating can vary based on the size of the firm, but they can be summed up into the following categories:

  • Process – Some firms have an issue picking where to automate. With so many tools available, what can you target first?
  • Reason – Another issue that can arise is the reasoning behind the automation. Will your new system create such positive change?
  • Implementation – In smaller firms, an issue is if they have the know-how and personnel required to manage and implement the new automation system. Can you ensure your team can get the most out of your new tool?
  • Cost – As mentioned before, the cost factor has mostly disappeared from the automation question, but it can still be an issue. Will the benefits of the new system more than offset the cost that it incurs?

While your firm may have more than one issue that is keeping you from automating, there are solutions to every one of these problems. Most of these can be answered by engaging with the automation vendor. Most automation firms are specialized and can provide you with ideas on where to start automating, why the automation will help, how to get it done, and where you can get help.

Conclusion

Adding automated systems to your firm can greatly improve your processes, quality, employee satisfaction, and customer experience.

Agree/ Disagree? Tell us what you think below!

Author

  • Paul Henriques

    Paul Henriques is the current Manager for the Documentation and Training team at OnRamp Solutions Inc. Paul has over 15 years of experience in writing training material and documentation for various software companies. Having had to learn OnRamp ERP to better document it’s features and write training material; Paul is constantly stunned by the amount of thought that goes into each feature and the capabilities that are within the program, with features for all the various business units of a manufactory. Paul spends most of his free time keeping up to date on all the latest news and best practices for the manufacturing sector. Paul’s favorite manufacturing quote: “There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.” – Henry Ford

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