söndag 30 maj 2021

Automation - the hidden potential


Leveraging the power of automation

The power of automation - it certainly has a ring to it, right? If you've already read the preceding blog posts in this series, you know that we've covered various aspects of implementing automation; inherent distrust of new technology and the not-invented-here (NIH) challenge, finding the right mix between improving workflow and introducing yet another tool & technological platform, and avoiding the most common pitfalls when it comes to moving from labor-intensive to automated workflows.

These are crucial steps towards leveraging the power of automation, and with successful outcomes it can be a game-changer for your business, your colleagues, and your customers.

In a way, the title of this post could’ve been “Leveraging the power of technology”, since the application of technology in most cases aims to provide some kind of automation of a task which we either do not want, or cannot afford, to execute manually. We could call it “creating capabilities” and “eliminating inefficiencies”.

Classic LEAN methods prescribe the elimination of waste identified with the mnemonic TIM WOODS – Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overprocessing, Overproduction, Defects, Skills

A brief explanation of each, highlights quite clearly what areas we can address with technology and automation as low hanging fruit -

  • Transportation - Moving items or information
  • Inventory - Items or information that the customer has not received
  • Motion - Excessive movement within workspace
  • Waiting - Waiting for information or items to arrive
  • Overprocessing - Doing more work than necessary
  • Overproduction - Doing work before it is needed
  • Defects - Mistakes and errors that need to be reworked
  • Skills - Not using the skillset available

Eliminating inefficiencies

Through e.g. integration, BPM or RPA as technologies, we can make sure that the right information reaches the right recipient in time – always – and the move, the transportation, is automated.  No more trudging through an export from SAP to filter, sort, copy and paste the information into another system to generate a report or presentation material.

This also includes a variety of operations on the information set, which may today be carried out manually – the exclusion or addition of an area code prefix in contact information, the sum total of a sales report, the concatenation of street name and post code in the address field etc. just to highlight a few generic examples. It gets done automatically, every time, and without any errors, mistakes, defects.

The win, the measurable impact in each task, activity and process – is that lead times are shortened or even eliminated (moving or waiting for information), actual work required is minimized (more work than necessary), the automated parts of the process are quality assured and secure (errors than need to be reworked), and the actual work required shifts focus from rote repetition to creative innovation and value-adding problem solving, making sure that the full skillset available in your colleagues comes to use (using the skillset available). Keep in mind that efficient automation also includes the factor of eliminating overprocessing (not doing more work than required) even if that work is automated in itself. Almost needless to say, customers – internal as well as external – will receive service with a completely new level of availability, transparency and response time which in comparison to the previous situation, will be game-changing.

Creating capabilities

Having seen what technology can do to our existing ways of working – what does it mean for the overall business, and the way we approach and communicate with our customer?

Looking at industry trends in practically every field over the past 20 years, it is clear that a vital part of our customer expectations, regardless if it is in relation to a product or a service, online or offline – is digital - the information dimension is critical. If I need a product, I want to be able to order it online, I want to be able to follow the delivery information from dispatch to delivery, I want information about the product properties to be available online and I want to be able to interact with other consumers who use that product to maximize my benefit and use from it. This is completely regardless if the product is IoT enabled and connected to a centralized service – and by then we’re entering into a whole new dimension of associated services, metrics, customer consumption and behavioral information etc. which can completely transform a business from reactive and competition driven to proactive and customer centric.

These are the kinds of capabilities that only are available through leveraging technology and automation – there just isn’t a way of achieving those types of information transfer and transparency, without efficient automation. Judging by the direction that the market and consumer behavior has taken – in short, you could say that there is no other way to stay competitive, relevant and valuable to a fast-paced information driven consumer base. You might think that this is strictly specific to the B2C market, but if so - take another look – B2B is even more data driven, from supply chain to aftermarket, the information flow is becoming the backbone of market leaders in every industry – and we’re taking our behaviors and expectations as consumers or professionals in both directions. Intuitive seamless access to information, private and professional – is standard, and a capability you cannot operate without.

This is the third of a four-part blog post series about intelligent automation, using technology in a smart way to get the most out of the time, energy and overall investment each organization is faced with to improve Customer offering, quality and overall market competitiveness.

Are you looking for ways to leverage technology to benefit your business and outsmart the competition?  Get in touch - every step forward starts with a constructive and thorough discussion!