Looking to boost business performance without adding a great deal of cost? The answer lies in automation. Long accepted as a great way of enhancing productivity and performance with ‘round the clock’ efficiency, there is an increasingly wide array of automation opportunities for the everyday office.
These days, robots are responsible for 10 percent of manufacturing tasks and it’s growing all the time. By 2025, it will be 25 percent, according to a Boston Consulting Group study.
But it isn’t just manufacturing where automation is relevant. Anywhere in the office where processes depend on passing around pieces of paper, for example, there is an opportunity for automation. By digitising that piece of paper, it is possible to accelerate the workflow and the process, remove inefficiency, eliminate mistakes which come from ‘rekeying’ information and free people up to concentrate on more value-added tasks. Thinking, rather than shuffling paper.
That’s just one example; many others exist. Typically, in-office automation goes hand in hand with the concepts of ‘digitisation’ and ‘digital transformation’. It is also typically associated with integration – making formerly isolated systems and processes talk to one another. That removes the necessity for information exchange to be made manually and it immediately speeds things up.
But speeding up a ‘poor’ process isn’t necessarily the outcome being sought. Instead, at the same time as automation is considered, there should be a focus on the efficacy of the processes themselves. That way, you won’t just be making a bad process happen faster. You’ll be benefiting from a better one done efficiently.
There is another consideration, too. What about jobs? Won’t automation put people out of work? That’s an issue which most famously came to a head when the Luddites set about destroying spinning machinery invented by Arkwright as they were afraid it would put them out of work. The economist Henry Hazlitt noted that when the machinery was introduced in the 1760, there were 7,900 persons employed in England producing textiles. By 1787, a parliamentary inquiry showed the number of persons engaged in the industry had grown to 320,000, an increase of 4,400 percent.
Automation doesn’t destroy jobs, it changes them; automation also means people everywhere benefit from lower prices.
So, where do you start? Here are our top tips to automate:
- Start with the easiest process
Easier, simpler tasks will make the case for automation and deliver lessons for more complex, later automations.
- Sell the benefits
Employees shouldn't fear automation. The workplace culture should embrace it. By removing 'rote' tasks, employees can be retrained or repurposed for more value-adding accordingly.
- Start small
Going all out is likely to be disruptive and risky. Gradually introduce automation initiatives, giving everyone in the company the chance to see the benefits and adapt accordingly.
- Document it
Measurement is essential to track sucess. Keep a record of what's been done, with consideration of 'before and after' results.
- Look for a trusted technology partner
Chances are, you're not a business process automation expert - and that's OK (we're not specialists at being grocers, accountants or lawyers). Find a solution provider which can understand your business and its priorities - and which also understands what's possible with modern information technology solutions.