September 7, 2017

How Automation Is Helping Business Operations

Creating a profitable business is what every entrepreneur wants to do. However, for most entrepreneurs this remains a pipe dream. A major reason for this is the go all-out, hands-on approach that many business owners take.

It’s simple: if you want your business to grow then you need to ditch the hands-on approach—for good. What you need instead is a way to leverage, and a way to scale. Automation may well be that way.

Used to create a profitable business, automation allows you to ditch hands-on approach to handling business operations. Today, business competition is fierce and the path to glory is somewhat like a roller coaster ride. By automating your business operations, you’ll allow a few processes to pass through automatically without your involvement. This in turn will free up precious time, time you can leverage to make more money and grow your business.

Is Automation a New Concept?

Contrary to popular belief, automation is not a new concept. In fact, long before the term ‘automation’ was first coined, the idea of a mechanized world flourished. Proof of this is Electro, a robot exhibited at the World’s fair in 1939. The star of the exhibit, Electro could talk, walk and count on its fingers. Unfortunately, Electro and his kind never evolved and thus, were relegated to mere exhibits that we come across while scampering through the history pages.

Luckily, Electro was not the last of the ‘automated bots’ that the world would bear witness to. Fast forward twenty year to to the 60s and we had something far more useful—the computer.

Most businesses saw computer, the latest technology, as a welcome addition to the business world. However, the variety of software required to perform key functions challenged and created a problem for operations management.

Human operators were the drivers of the initial solutions and their salaries consumed a big chunk of the IT budget. A monster that had to be constantly fed, operations required support from the entire administrative structure. This led to a system that was prone to errors, increasing in expense and complexity. Soon, the situation was out of control and something had to be done. This is when the concept of automated computer operations was born.

The Birth of Automated Operations

Over four decades ago, IBM introduced the OS/360 operating system and this was when automated computer operations were born. A supervisory program, the OS/360 managed system resources and enabled automatic transition from one job to another. This was referred to as batch processing. While it could run them, OS/360’s control over the sequence of the batch jobs was limited. Moreover, it didn’t have the ability to schedule future jobs and required a high level of operator involvement.

The need to continually perform complex, labor-intensive tasks led software developers to begin developing automated operations software. Today, this software can schedule future jobs without much operator involvement. However, this is just one of the many ways automated operations software is making life easy for business owners and operations managers.

Following are five ways automation is helping business operations.

Improved Organization

The seamless distribution of information is what automation makes possible. For instance, all the information related to the project will be in

the same place when you automatically create a quote for a new project and can invoice it from the same system.

Looking across multiple systems to get the information you need is no longer required. By automatically sending the information where you need it, automation keeps your data current and prevents your team from spending a lot of time looking for it.

Increased Productivity

Automated operations resolve productivity issues in several ways. For example, by automating the production batch schedule, job scheduling software increases batch throughput. In the past, the speed with which operators could reset switches on the console limited computer throughput. Today, the solution is not allowing the computer to stay frivolous while waiting for the operator to release the next job.

By minimizing operator intervention and eliminating idle time between jobs, automated operations save businesses time and money. In some cases, you can use automation to reduce your process hours, allowing you to process more work and significantly improve system use.

Well-Established Processes

Setting up specific workflows and processes in advance is what makes automation possible. To set up these workflows and processes, you need to consider best practices as well as how your team actually works. Once implemented, these processes can help make your operations consistent and efficient.

Moreover, by making it easier to accomplish more in less time, these documented, repeatable processes can help you scale. When they no longer need to spend time worrying about the process itself, your team can focus on areas that actually help grow your business such as performing jobs efficiently and providing excellent customer service.

Increased Accountability

Determining exactly what is happening at every moment can be difficult when you have many different systems in place. For example, if employees wanted to eliminate tasks they didn’t want to perform, you’d need processes to know this was going on.

What if the eliminated/deleted task was an accident?  How would you know that something was deleted accidently and you can get the information back?  By providing a digital paper trail for your entire operation in one place, automation reduced human errors. This increases the accountability for every employee’s actions across different systems, eliminating issues such as the one mentioned above.

While automation isn’t a new concept, its use in business operations is a relatively new practice. By providing the aforementioned benefits, automation is helping business operations and making the life of business owners and operations manager a whole lot easier.

by Bobby J Davidson

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