When one thinks of automation, one usually conjures up an image of a production line where robotic arms screw in components where once a human employee once stood. For many years, workplace automation has moved beyond the manufacturing arena and now plays a part in all businesses, large and small, manufacturing or service-based.
Any repetitive business process, whether internal or customer-facing, could be made better with the implementation of an automated business system to improve efficiency, convenience, and profitability.
RGS IT Managing Director, Rob Holmes, addresses a recent article from Business News Daily which prompted the discussion “it’s not just about robots.”
How has the term “automation” evolved from manufacturing plants utilising robots to assist with manual processes?
Automation is a big buzzword in the industry, and understandably so. There are so many tasks that have traditionally been undertaken by humans that these days can be handled by computerised resources. This area of productivity optimisation offers rich pickings, indeed. Whether you are processing documents, monitoring factory machinery, or following up on meeting reminders, these are all areas where automation can take away the drudgery for staff members, making the task cheaper and more reliable to complete.
Can you give us some examples of small business clients who have used automation to address a repetitive task, hence, saving time and money?
One of the systems we developed receives invoice information from utility companies ready for our client to undertake audits to ensure accuracy for the end-user. This used to be a manual process involving staff receiving paper invoices and typing them into the computerised system. However, with the advent of AI, these invoices can now be read automatically meaning that the data is imported much faster and often more accurately.
This in turn frees up staff for more important work that requires human input rather than taking up time on repetitive tasks.
In what areas would people be surprised to learn are automated (i.e. recruitment/hiring process)?
In many businesses, automation can creep in without being obvious. In some ways, this is the best implementation as it complements business rather than taking over.
For example, when a candidate for a recruitment process uploads their CV, we now implement AI-driven data processing to read and analyse their CV. The data it contains (demographic data, education history, work history, skills, etc) are all exported into a structured format so that it can then be imported into the applicant tracking system, ready to take their application forward.
This has numerous advantages helping to attract more applicants because of its quick and easy application process through to the ability to handle large numbers of applicants, screening out those who are not appropriate, and focussing on the top talent without overwhelming the recruitment staff.
What exciting developments are there in this field?
Where should we start?!
Automation takes various forms, ranging from the automation of data processing, such as the examples mentioned above. In this arena, AI plays a large part as well as in the area of Industrial Internet Of Things (IIOT) in which we employ technology to monitor and control the physical world.
As gardening is a passion for many, let’s take this as an example. We may monitor the moisture level of compost in a greenhouse that’s growing fruit, and when appropriate add more water. Obviously, the agriculture example is only one – there are countless possibilities of where IIOT can revolutionise a business. The growth of physical world sensors is breathtaking, to say the least. Married with the advance of micro-controller systems that run on almost no power and communicate via Mobile Networks, its potential is limited only by the imagination of those involved.
Some may see automation as a negative for fear of displacing a workforce. Care to comment?
This is an age-old concern that has never ultimately come to fruition. The reality is that when you free up a business to do more with less, that business is never happy to stay at the status quo and reduce its staff count, instead the business will always want to expand and become more profitable.
Staff who are displaced from doing repetitive tasks end up re-deployed doing something more meaningful. You only have to look over the last 30 years to see that the growth of computerisation has not resulted in mass unemployment in the world, instead, if anything, our labour markets are more stretched than ever.
As Rob points out, the fear of job loss as a result of widespread automation is actually unfounded as newer sectors and new areas of growth within existing industries develop. With all businesses, the bottom-line matters and automating processes not only saves time but allows your employees to re-direct their focus to more strategic matters.
RGS IT has years of experience working with businesses to take a closer look at how they work and help them work smarter by identifying, removing, and replacing inefficient processes. Find out how we can help you.