Automation At What Expense Does Automation Increase Productivity?


We live in a rapidly advancing world of technology. Our smartphones are an example of powerful, portable computers with everything at our fingertips. With the ability to conference call, text, and email within minutes, the world feels smaller. Everything is seemingly instantaneous. So, is it even a wonder why automation is a discussion? Our advancements in technology have created a culture inching closer and closer towards automation. Let’s see…there are autonomous cars, with the ability to drive, stop and park themselves. Microsoft Word decided to edit my word choice just now to make my sentence more concise. Will computers write for us in the future? It’s undoubtedly exciting. However, does automation increase productivity? For those of you thinking “Yes! Of course, automation increases productivity; it makes processes faster,” consider that this mentality could result in perpetuating inefficiencies faster, resulting in very minimal productivity. However, when done correctly, automation can bring efficiency to the organization. By having processes where waste has already been removed, organizations can fully achieve the efficiency automation brings.

While automation can indeed make processes more streamlined, if not implemented efficiently it will only create more obstacles. I once worked with an organization looking to capture efficiencies by outsourcing their transactional processes.  They intended to use BPM to automate the processes and relocate their execution.  After analysis, the data showed that the initial savings from outsourcing disappeared.  Why? Because automating processes that generate waste, only generates waste faster creating downstream inefficiencies that eat into profits.

Essentially, we cannot use automation in the place of an operation and hope it’ll fix existing problems. Rather, it should enhance an already efficient operation to increase productivity. Therefore, an evaluation of the current process designated to undergo automation needs to occur. Then, changes to increase operational efficiency need to be put in place, followed by an evaluation of its efficiency based on those changes.  In the long- run this will ensure that the automation sticks. Think of this implementation like an organ transplant. Preparation prior to inserting the new organ is essential to lessen the possibility of the body rejecting the newly inserted organ. Ultimately, the automation should be seamlessly inserted.

Once the automation is inserted, integration is necessary for the parties involved. No matter how automated a process or a system may become, people are its operators. If not taught to work with the automation, it will obstruct the entire system. For example, we can now acquire our boarding passes and process customs on our own at the airport using the designated machines. They are user friendly for the most part however, user friendly doesn’t mean impervious to error and confusion for the one manipulating it. Unless you have used the machines before, thus integrated with the automation, they can take longer to process your boarding passes than if you would have gone straight to the check-in desk.  This illuminates the need to integrate people with an automation for it to truly yield greater productivity.

By no means am I cautioning the implementation of automation in your business systems. Instead, I want to leave you with this: Automation should not be automatic. You must have efficient processes in place to embrace the implementation and follow up with integrating people with your processes. Thinking about automating, or digitizing a process?

My challenge to you is this…” if you made it faster to process your operation, what inefficiencies have you made faster as a result?”

Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts.

About the Author: Hazel

Share this article