Standardize, Improve, Automate

Standardize, Improve, Automate

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Your company has decided to add automation to one of your most critical processes.  What is the reason for the investment?

Most companies automate a process to improve results through labor cost reduction. Many organizations see automation as a way to decrease labor and create a lower cost outcome. In fact, as many as 78% of companies decide to add automated equipment for labor reduction alone.

It's true that removing manual labor costs produces a quicker return on investment. But a larger opportunity awaits. Think bigger. Why wouldn't you want to go beyond modest labor savings? Why not take the opportunity to improve process outcomes, quality costs and cycle times in a big way?

Preparation before your automation implementation is key to the best investment return. An essential step in preparation should be a process review. A process review includes process mapping, analysis and potential redesign of identified problems.

There are many reasons why a process review is necessary for a better project outcome.

  1. The target process has been performing for years with an acceptable outcome. Is acceptable good enough? A process review will often find a complicated process design. Identification of unneeded steps leads to removal of complexity. For example, there may be data collected that is no longer required and removed. Another example includes combining many processes into a single operation. A process review will identify unnecessary or outdated process steps.

  2. Your company had the expertise available to solve process problems during development. Procedures existed but were not documented or they are no longer current. When new employees join an organization, they develop their own best practices. A process review can identify those best practices and reduce problem recurrence.

  3. Often, companies drop useful process steps or activity because resources aren't available during initial development. One example is data acquisition. Helpful data that improves the outcome is not gathered because of the cost to do so. The timing of the data collection is lagging causing a poor response time to that data. A process review identifies critical areas for value added activities. Then, those activities are implemented into the automation plan.

Organizational decision makers believe that expensive technologies alone will resolve manufacturing operational issues. Automation implementation can provide tremendous benefit to any company considering an application. You should be cautious when you hear that automating an existing process “as is” will be a game changer. You can automate without review of the current process; and you can remove existing labor which results in lower labor costs. But this also ensures mediocre performance. Why not take this opportunity to improve your entire process and report larger gains?

REMEMBER: Standardize, improve, then automate.

Do you need a partner to help you perform your process review? You should consider an impartial outside resource to review your target process. A partner identifies opportunities before your automation implementation event. Contact KM Shinn Consulting for the help that you deserve.

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