As we ride the COVID-19 tide, businesses are duly acknowledging the need for automation in the post-pandemic future. It will help them operate more cost-effectively, become more flexible in times of crisis, and will keep business processes uninterrupted. But I think the lesson here is not just about taking what’s coming to us at face value and adapting to it; it’s about preparing for a major shift by leveraging industrial automation to its fullest extent.
Benefits of Automating Business Processes
In my 40 years of experience working with computer technology and digital marketing, I have recognized that the benefits are diverse and can truly make a difference to the bottom line. Here are some benefits of automation in industry;
- Increased productivity
- Greater visibility and transparency
- Reduced costs
- Reduced errors
- Greater customer satisfaction
Building the right business process automation solutions
The only way for an organization to successfully develop cutting-edge business automation or factory automation solutions is by growing them organically. This is where a proper strategy for business process management becomes critical. Follow these steps for a quick way to get going:
1. Evaluating customer needs
Let’s face it – your customers have plenty of choice. I believe that the first area of focus should be customer needs. Industrial automation must be leveraged to serve the client better.
2. Automating customer support:
Automation products like AI chatbots allow businesses to offer personalized suggestions on services and products. Predictive AI analysis can learn from user inputs and take their personalities into account, to generate customized answers, rather than offering generic templatized messages.
3. Identifying departments & processes:
I think the best way to address the need for automation in business processes is by identifying the key departments that need automation. Here are the key departments that must be considered by every organization.
- Sales & Marketing:
From building customer funnels to procuring data about what customers think today, there are a lot of areas that can be streamlined using automation.
For example, cloud-based AI platforms can be developed to monitor and procure data from popular media feeds to understand changing customer trends. This data can then be automatically matched with marketing goals data to see how closely the two are in alignment.
- Finance and Accounting:
Processes in this department require precision, but inputting all those numbers can be monotonous. Some of the processes that can be automated include accounts payable & receivable, approval workflows, and data inputting, querying, and extraction.
- Human Resources:
This is a critical area for leveraging automation and saving useful manpower hours. Filing new employee paperwork or documenting training modules are two areas that will immediately benefit from automation.
4. Identifying tools
Automation technologies have given rise to many tools, programs and platforms which are universally recognized for their application. For instance, Robotic process automation, or RPA, are small software programs that automate effort-intensive or mundane, repetitive tasks. An RPA execution will have a bot work on repetitive, high-volume tasks where the action stays the same. Proper planning enables optimized utilization of RPAs across departments.
Here are some additional tools that can be leveraged:
- Intelligent character recognition (ICR):
ICR or OCR (optical character recognition) are the key reasons why automatic data entry exists today. This software can scan and “read” text, both digital fonts and manual handwriting. ICR and OCR software takes what is read and funnels it into relevant data logs or programs.
- Automated Documentation:
These platforms are referred to as enterprise content management systems. They import, export, and log all business-relevant files and data, creating a structured library of files that is modern, user-friendly, and easily accessible for all employees.
- Smart Forms:
Smart Form is an easy solution to business paperwork creation and management. Various customizable documents can be created in several different formats, digital or print. They can also be directly saved into the content management system (CMS).
Assessment of the business process management strategy
Once the business process management plan is implemented, it should be assessed based on three basic parameters:
- Activity Metrics: These data points review the extent of adoption and usage of new automation tools.
- Efficiency Metrics: These data points showcase the improvements in various daily tasks and in the overall operations.
- Value Metrics: This is a list of data metrics to track and account for any financial or budgetary changes that occurs as a direct result of the automation.
These types of assessments are especially important for automation in manufacturing, as there are multiple complex mechanisms working together in an automated ecosystem.
Continuous improvement tools to enhance business processes
Improvement is the only way to ensure sustainable and cost-effective business processes. There are a plethora of tools and techniques to increase continuous improvement and operational efficiency. Here are a few popular ones:
- A3: This is a structured problem solving and continuous improvement approach that was first employed at Toyota and typically used by lean manufacturing practitioners.
- Kanban: The practice of Kanban was derived from the idea that humans are hard-wired for visuals. Our visual senses are much sharper than other senses, allowing us to work more efficiently with visual workflows. Similarly, Kanban makes use of visualization principles that are used by grocery stores to have on hand the right level of inventory.
- Gemba: The term “Gemba” means “The real place” in Japanese. The Gemba walk technique involves managers or supervisors going to the place where work gets done to observe and identify opportunities for improvement.
Outsourcing business processes
Inter-dependency is part of today’s globalized business world. This means outsourcing certain business processes which are not so critical is key for continuous improvement. This saves a lot of in-house resources and time and enhances work efficiency. Here are a few areas where outsourcing has been proven to help:
- Lead generation: Cold calls, cold emails… Outsourcing lead generation will ensure that businesses can focus on pursuing genuine leads that are worth the time and effort
- Sourcing of Candidates: Procuring talent in a multi-skilled role takes a lot of screening and filtering. It’s best to outsource the preliminary filtering to HR and recruitment companies.
- Legal: Legal services are quite expensive. Instead of keeping in-house lawyers, hiring a law firm that offers flexible pricing or fee models would better suit any modern business’ needs.
If you’re looking for an expert automation solutions provider, contact Suyati. Suyati is a pioneer in implementing cutting-edge industrial automation solutions, offering both standalone and integrated solution packages.
Rick Anderson works with Suyati as a Strategic IT Advisor. He is an experienced Chief Information Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. He has multifaceted experience across domains such as manufacturing, industrial automation and eCommerce. He is skilled in PHP, Databases, Mobile Applications, and Software as a Service (SaaS). His current focus is on the success of emerging growth of middle-market companies with implementation of projects related to strategic business decisions, corporate development, funding solutions, and IT deployment. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.