If automation isn’t planned, it can result in doing more harm than good to organizations.
Thus, organizations must be aware of the ways to prevent automation disasters to ensure automation solutions end up being beneficial.
Businesses are looking to automate most of their processes. Technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and RPA can be leveraged to help automate work operations. However, implementing automation is easier said than done. Organizations can’t just implement any technology without putting thought into the type of technology to be implemented, the problems it would solve, the benefits it will bring, the implementation costs that accompany, and the ROI the technology guarantees over time. If organizations implement automation solutions without considering the factors mentioned above, it can potentially lead to chaos. Here are a few tips that can help avoid automation disaster and ensure that automation solutions end up being profitable.
Tips to Avoid Automation Disaster
Before implementing automation solutions, organizations can keep in mind the following tips to ascertain that the path to automation is a smooth one.
Select the Right Processes
Organizations must automate the right processes. Just because automation solutions are available, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be implemented in every operation. So, primarily, think about tasks that need to be automated with utmost priority. Understand what processes can be simplified to a great extent using automation tools. As automation can get complex depending upon the complexity of the work process and the scale, thoroughly review the implementation strategy. For instance, suppose there is a warehouse with two or three products in the inventory, and those products need to be sorted and placed in different locations in the warehouse. This process can be automated easily with the help of solutions such as AI robots that can carry out the sorting and placing tasks. This task can get complicated if the warehouse is larger in scale and has multiple products in the inventory. Additionally, enterprises must ascertain that the automation solution brings significant improvements in productivity and efficiency in work operations with reduced costs.
Tip: When implementing automation, start with simple tasks. Analyze the increase in productivity, efficiency, and reduction in costs the automation solution brings. If the solution proves viable, implement it on a larger scale or use it for automating other tasks as well. Keep monitoring the benefits periodically and discontinue if the automation technology isn’t bringing positive results.
Use The Right Technology
Once you have finalized a process that needs to be automated, prepare a roadmap for its implementation. Define the expectations for the automation tool. Prepare a functional specifications document. The document should enlist what the current system is and what it is expected to be after implementing automation tools. Make sure to include all specifications that are needed, such as quality, requirements of the AI solution, and safety, among others. Next, choose the right technology depending on the mentioned parameters. Discuss with your colleagues about the automation process and come up with a unanimous decision regarding the technology to be used.
Tip: Decide whether a single automation solution would suffice or if multiple solutions are required. If going with a single automation solution, decide which fits the best and gives the highest ROI. For example, when implementing an automation solution for HRMS, decide whether a simple RPA tool is enough for your organization’s needs or there is a need for an advanced automation technology such as artificial intelligence.
Get the Basics Right
Before you move ahead with any automation solution, first get your manual processes right. Automation should not be seen as the solution to solve problems in manual processes. Surely, it can help reduce errors, but there are certain factors that even automation can’t control. For instance, human assistance is usually required at some stage or the other, even after employing automation tools. And to err is human. If the implemented automation solutions work in partnership with human employees, ensure that human errors are eliminated. If these mistakes aren’t taken care of, then automation won’t prove beneficial. On the contrary, you will end up with the same inefficiencies, and the automation will end up being useless. For example, if in a warehouse, human employees assemble items and the robots perform the task of placing the provided items in different aisles, it might happen that employees might place the items in the hands of the wrong robot. The robot, without any reasoning, will place the items in the place it was programmed to do. Thus, items can get misplaced due to human error.
Tip: Train your employees to ensure that human errors are kept to a minimum or eliminated completely. Ensure that the tasks are carried out with the highest accuracy, and have systems in place for detecting and rectifying errors immediately.
It is a fact that automated systems are bound to fail at some point in time. The failure duration depends upon the complexity of the process it is involved in. Depending on how vulnerable your operations are to automation breakdowns and failures, adopt sufficient measures to ensure that the continuity of your operations isn’t affected greatly due to such instances. For instance, if your warehouse requires ten robots, ensure that you have two or three extra robots available, in case some of the employed ones break down.
Tip: Have sufficient manual backup alternatives to use in case of automation failure. Discuss backup plans with your vendor during the implementation phase itself to ensure that your operations run uninterrupted, even if something goes wrong.
Don't Ignore Manpower
Automation tools are usually employed to carry out simple, repetitive tasks. This results in the reduction of semi-skilled manpower at the workplace. A skilled workforce is still required to carry out complex tasks. Moreover, most small and medium businesses can’t employ tools that bring complete automation. Human involvement is required at some point or the other. Thus, small and medium enterprises will need a highly-skilled workforce to operate and maintain the automation systems. Thus, enterprises can’t turn a blind eye to their human resources and be completely dependent on the automation tool.
Tip: Most of the automation systems can be monitored by using minimum manpower. However, enterprises should hire highly skilled professionals to monitor the system continuously. If something goes haywire, the technicians should be able to rectify things quickly to minimize disruption. Enterprises that depend on automation 24*7 can hire highly skilled technicians for the day shift as most of the operations are usually carried during the day and keep the less experienced staff for the night shift. In case of emergencies, the skilled personnel can be called immediately.
Ensure the Feasibility
When calculating the feasibility of an automation system, analyze the pre and post-automation costs. This includes the manpower cost post-automation and the manpower cost pre-automation. Additionally, consider other direct operating costs such as utility consumption, maintenance, support and services charges. To sum it up, compare the overall costs before and after the implementation of an automation solution.
Tip: Consider the intangible benefits of automation systems too, such as improvement in productivity, accuracy, and quality. Convert these into monetary values to get a clear idea about the feasibility of the automation system.
We hope that you’ve automated the right processes, in the right way, using the right automation tool, with the right framework, and employed the right people to ensure that the automation solution runs smoothly. However, you will still need to keep an eye on the system’s performance and deal with the rare breakdowns. Thus, make sure you give sufficient training to your employees regarding the operational and maintenance procedures. Other than that, just sit back, relax, and let automation weave its magic, without having to worry about automation disasters now.