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Welcome to the official blog of the International Society of Automation (ISA).

This blog covers numerous topics on industrial automation such as operations & management, continuous & batch processing, connectivity, manufacturing & machine control, and Industry 4.0.

The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. ISA blog posts may be authored by ISA staff and guest authors from the automation community. Views and opinions expressed by a guest author are solely their own, and do not necessarily represent those of ISA. Posts made by guest authors have been subject to peer review.

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How to Streamline Workflows Using Automation

There are few things that could cripple a business faster than inefficiency. Inefficiency includes human error, repetitive tasks, time-consuming tasks, and poor data collection. Few techniques can help eliminate inefficiency better than automation.

In essence, workflow automation is a sequence of processes put in place to eliminate everyday business inefficiencies and streamline the use of time and resources. The aim is to boost productivity, reduce cost and time and create a safer working environment.

Steps in Workflow Automation

Automation without a plan could be just as bad as not automating at all. You need to understand your business and identify steps in your production that require automated workflows.  

  • Step 1. Identification: Before selecting the automation processes you would like to employ, it is essential to identify the tasks you need to automate. Identify repetitive, time-consuming tasks that are prone to human error
  • Step 2. Prioritize: Changing the whole system of operations can be risky. Instead, start by prioritizing areas that need the most automation, cause the least changes in operations, and offer the most value. Check how frequently the task is carried out and how often an error arises from the process
  • Step 3. Budgeting: Since every company is different, plenty of solutions exist to cater to different situations. Select automated workflows that are within your budget and cater to your needs
  • Step 4. Map-flow: Once you have selected the automation process, map it down. Create a standard operating procedure, or SOP, to teach the rest of the team how it works and how to work it. This step can be amended as you perfect the automation process
  • Step 5. Testing: Before fully implementing the process, automate a small batch to ensure it will not cause more inefficiencies. Monitor, change, and adapt your automation in this step and ensure it can work with your current processes
  • Step 6. Expand: Incorporate the automation wider in your processes and monitor to see if it results in better output. Slowly expand as you adjust to increase effectiveness
  • Step 7. Repeat: Repeat the process above to incorporate more automation processes in other areas that need it

Different Types of Automation

Automation is a broad discipline. Understanding the different types of automation can help you adapt processes to best fit your industry, budget, and needs.

  • Tech Automation: Tech automation includes AI, machine learning, and process intelligence. These aim to make your production smarter. Tech automation is quickly being considered a game-changer. It can be adapted to any niche and any sized company
  • Fixed-Hard Automation: Fixed-hard automation carries out predefined sequences of tasks to produce a singular output. This kind of automation can be great for companies that mass produce a single product
  • Programmable Automation: Just like tech automation, programmable automation is considered by many to be a game-changer. It performs several functions to produce multiple outputs, making programmable automation an excellent choice for batch production and high-volume items in different categories
  • Flexible Automation: This is a cross between fixed and programmable automations. Flexible automation is great for scaling and ideal for low to mid-volume production

Benefits of Automation

Streamline Communication

Even though automation can be a little challenging to set up, once everything runs smoothly, the benefits are vast and can help the company in many areas.

One area that growing companies and startups often struggle with is communication. With more people joining the company, the need to relay messages in a simple and timely way becomes increasingly critical. Poor communication can lead to longer wait times, more employee workload, and increased stress levels. In fact, an estimated 83% of employees in the US experience stress at work, often caused by poor communication and inefficient repetitive work processes.

Automation reduces the need to perform repetitive tasks. It can also help automate messaging and reminders, ensuring everyone knows what to do and when to do it without micromanagement.

Increase Accountability

Hierarchy and roles in a company help create accountability. However, automation helps streamline these roles, increasing accountability. A manager can assign a specific role to someone while ensuring everyone knows who is tasked with performing that role. This can help measure the role and individual’s productivity. The company can also easily identify any system cracks to fix or ask the employee in charge to help design a more effective way.

Save on Costs

The ultimate efficiency goal for many companies is to help them make more profits. By saving on costs, the company inevitably increases its profit margin and grows revenue. Automation helps eliminate expensive errors that may often come about due to human error. With less opportunities for human error, speed and production levels can increase.

Faster and greater production results in more products with lower production costs. Most importantly, with more automation, the need for many employees can be eliminated, helping the company cut costs through wages as well.

Empower Employees

Automation not only helps to reduce the number of employees but can also empower the current personnel. Employees will be encouraged to learn new skills, gain certifications, and become more specialized to better meet the job requirement and perform their roles. This empowerment of employees benefits the company as it now has more capable employees who understand the specifics and particular needs of the business.

The more confident employees are in a role, the less supervision they need, and the more they will be able to learn and fix problems by themselves. Developing confidence in their abilities and role often leads employees to become more creative and better at identifying other problems that can be solved through automation.

Data Collection

Data collection can help a company change and better identify problem areas through automation. The transparency of automation ensures better, unbiased information is collected, which can then be used to assess the company more accurately. With precise data processed with automated machine learning, the company can make better decisions through risk assessment and can foster sustainable growth.

At the end of the day, automation helps with scalability and a better ROI. You can expect increased efficiency, less human error, and fewer repetitive tasks. With a streamlined working environment, your employees can be less stressed and more focused on their higher-value assignments to sustain the company’s growth.

Aaron Smith
Aaron Smith
Aaron Smith is an LA-based content strategist and consultant in support of STEM firms and medical practices. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. In his free time, Aaron enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels.

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