Perfecting manufacturing business processes through automation

Perfecting manufacturing business processes through automation

Manufacturers face the daunting task of staying ahead of the competition in an ever-growing global market. Business process automation can provide an advantage to companies looking to streamline work order, supply chain, and back-office processes; however, many leaders do not know where to begin on their journey.

When first installing automation into day-to-day business operations, manufacturers need to consider these three distinct areas. Shop floor management, supply chain processes and customer/back-office operations are at the heart of any manufacturing business, yet too often manufacturers overlook ways to increase efficiency in these areas. . Large, mundane, or labor-intensive manual tasks such as data entry are often error-prone and burdensome to employees. Automation provides relief and increases productivity for tasks that don’t require a high level of cognitive thinking, creating a layer of efficiency that didn’t exist before. Businesses need to think about how to integrate automation into day-to-day procedures to support the business and workforce in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

How do I know if my organization is a good candidate for automation?

Just because a task is manual does not mean it lends itself to automation. When assessing whether a process is mature, organizations should look for immutable sequences that have been in place for at least 6 months and responsibilities that are based on if/then logic. If multiple people in different divisions are performing the same task, it’s a sign that it’s time to streamline efficiency and implement automation. It is important to note that it cannot be used as a quick fix for faulty practice. Before a manual activity can be automated, leaders must ensure that it is already as efficient as possible, even when done manually. Only then can automation be used to perfect the process.

Leaders thinking about how practices can be improved need to ask themselves, “How can we make things simpler and more efficient?” Look at your division, break it down into sub-functions and ask yourself, within each sub-division: what challenges has our team faced? Are any current tasks related or prone to manual error? Could these assignments be automated? »

For example, imagine the following scenario in back office operations. Employee A prints an invoice. The physical invoice travels between several departments, employees B, C and D all adding more or less legible notes. Finally, employee E receives the invoice. They are then tasked with deciphering the messy handwriting and manually entering several data points into a computer. This is a prime example of a flawed system that would benefit from automation. Alternatively, each division could enter its data directly into a shared system, which would save time, reduce the risk of error and enable cross-departmental collaboration.

How do you decide where to start?

For teams embarking on automation for the first time, start small. Rather than committing to a large-scale project, consider focusing on one division and scheduling two to three activities. Evaluate to see how the changes benefit your department. Once automated practices have been successfully implemented, share your experience with others to determine if it can be replicated in other divisions. Here are some examples of where automation could be implemented in different areas.

Business automation in action: CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) is imperative for any organization trying to create greater efficiency around consumer engagements, improve overall productivity, and sustain growth. Satisfied customers have a direct effect on the bottom line, ensuring revenue fixation and helping to consolidate a strong market presence. Manufacturers need to think about which steps in CRM could benefit from automation.

Chatbots are a great example of automation within CRM. Chatbots can be programmed to answer basic customer questions such as “When is my order ready?” or “How do I update my address?” Chatbots can also help with things like helping customers change their order quantity. Rather than forcing customers to wait for a representative to be available, chatbots ensure that customers can get their answers quickly and employees can focus on more meaningful work. While reps are needed for questions beyond the capabilities of bots, chatbots have the ability to immediately translate questions and identify the right keywords to transfer a customer to the matchmaking service, which saves even more money. more time and streamline the customer journey.

The future

Soon, companies will no longer need to rely on their executives to decide which procedures are best suited for automation. Businesses these days turn to process mining software, a program designed to assess ongoing responsibilities and suggest efficiency improvements. Process mining is a growing field, with many organizations wanting a faster way to identify inefficiencies that don’t require lengthy conversations across multiple departments. Process mining is expected to continue to grow in popularity in 2022 and become mainstream in 2023.

In today’s competitive global marketplace, manufacturing leaders need to consider how integrating automation into day-to-day procedures could support their organization’s ongoing efforts. Removing mundane and repetitive manual tasks relieves employees, increases productivity and creates a new layer of efficiency. Employers should start small, looking for a handful of tasks within a department that have been in place for more than 6 months and require an unchanging sequence of events. Starting here will help organizations perfect and streamline processes, preparing them for their broader automation journey.

About the Author

Preeti Lobo is practice director of business integration and automation at Apps Associates, an enterprise application services company with more than two decades of experience helping organizations innovate through digital transformation initiatives. Clients such as Brooks Automation, Hologic Inc. and Edwards Vacuum use the company for strategic consulting and systems integration, utilizing their experience in analytics, application modernization, process automation, systems digital, technology and operations.

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