These days there is much talk about robots taking our jobs and many tasks being automated. As much as many people don’t like change this is something that is already happening and changing the way business is done such as Amazon. It is inevitable and businesses that do not do so will struggle to contain their cost structures and therefore pricing compared to these who have automated.
What are efficiency and automation?
Efficiency is doing something without waste.
Automation means to introduce automatic processes ie these that just happen and don’t need human involvement.
One of the biggest causes of extra expenses for a business is doing things one way because that’s how they have always been done. This is very likely to be a recipe for inefficiency and probably missing out on the benefits of advances in technology available. It’s a bit like ploughing a field by hand because you haven’t heard of plough-horses, and petrol tractors.
To improve efficiency or automate, you first need to understand what is actually happening in your processes, why it is happening, and whether each step in the process is something that is needed. Unneeded steps are inefficient and cause waste and extra cost. Steps that are repetitive and don’t require human judgement are ripe for automation. Technology can even be programmed to make decisions within a range of variables and with machine learning they can actually make very smart decisions on what action should be taken.
For a business to be efficient, its processes should be documented (the real processes, not the ideal processes) and then regularly reviewed to see if they have changed or should be changed to do things better.
Why automate? Benefits can include avoiding “human error” from tasks, poor performance (due to lack of attention, fatigue, or illness), and the ability to operate non-stop 24/7. This can allow redeployment of existing staff to higher-value areas of the business – where their ability to think, smile, and solve problems can better engage your customers and create value for them.
There are a lot of efficiency improvement and automation tools commercially available ranging from machines in manufacturing to computer smarts reducing tasks required in business software such as Xero and it’s thousands of add-ons.
If you’d like to improve efficiency or automate part of your operations but don’t know where to begin, here is a quick recap:
- Document/review your existing processes.
- Identify these are that inefficient or are repetitive and can be automated.
- Fix or automate.
Should you need help with this please let us know. An outsider to your day-to-day processes is often best placed to question their necessity and to identify inefficiency. We can also suggest many options currently available on the market that can automate many basic business tasks.
Written by Dale Edwards