Automation in the Manufacturing industry

October 15, 2020 | Robotic Process Automation | Nikola Kostić

“Smart” changes in the modern world didn’t bypass the manufacturing industry too. Today`s smart factories are unimaginable without 3D smart printers or Internet of Things (IoT) machinery. These modern systems help companies accelerate process orders, manufacture products, and ship to customers faster. Managers and leaders can improve core business processes and stay ahead of competitors with automation in the manufacturing through RPA. 

Business operations are disrupted and manufacturers need to find the best way to deal with it. The velocity of the fourth industrial revolution is challenging the manufacturing industry. They need to transform business models and adapt to digital changes. According to Delloite, manufacturers need to build “digital muscles” to stay competitive.

Digital muscle building can be one of the leverage points to increase flexibility in global supply chains. Manufacturers can make faster changes to respond to threats an opportunities with applying:

  • applying artificial intelligence,
  • cloud computing,
  • advanced analytics,
  • robotics, and
  • additive manufacturing  

According to the report, only one fifth of manufacturers are ready for changes for digital revolution. 

Embrace Changes

Companies that are adopting changes, already see benefits in their digital journey. Early successes in digitalisation increased many companies` appetites which lead to further digital exploitation and investment. And early adopters of automation have a greater pace than their peers, to drive higher productivity, output, and customer satisfaction.      

New digital technologies are opening a new era in automation, considering humans and machines working side-by-side. Companies consider automation shoul consider three fundamental perspectives, according to McKinsey.

  • what automation is making possible with current technology and is likely to make possible with technologies continue to evolve;
  • what factors besides technical feasibility to consider when making decisions about automation;
  • and how to begin thinking about where to automate to get the best value from automation over the long term.”

Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.
Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Joe Kaeser, Siemens

Opportunities in administrative processes

Opportunities in administrative processes are related to where and what to automate:

  • Procurement automation
    Procurement processes have great potential for automation, because of too many manually handled documents and a lot of communication between employees and approvals needed, which can lead to stagnation of productivity. Examples of automation in procurement are: creating customers’ folders, management access permissions, or notifying team members of new information for the process.
  • Planning automation
    Intelligent automation can learn from past order or productivity volumes. It can predict future, like product price or time period, which can help employees to achieve planned results 
  • Compliance automation
    Every industry, including manufacturing, has a variety of compliance measures and laws at the local or state levels. Because of numerous manual processes, tracking compliance measures and laws can be challenging. Intelligent, rule based automation, tracking measures, or preparing compliance reports become easier and reduce the possibility of human errors.

Steps to achieve the greatest benefits from automation capabilities:

1. Understand the process which are candidates for automation

Each organisation runs differently and has different processes which are candidates for automation. They make mistake. They indeed can automate just a part of the process. Partial automation and manual work is often much more efficient, than a full automation.

2. Decide which processes to automate first.

You can`t tackle all your inefficient processes at once and the suggestion is not to start whit the toughest one. While considering which process to automate you should ask yourself some of the red-flag questions, about processes, such as: 

  • Is the process well structured? Is the decisive logic very clear?
  • Is the work process defined?
  • Is the process subject to a person’s error?
  • Is the workload high?
  • Find here more red-flag questions

3. Capture analytics from the automated process.

By bringing automation in the organization to your manufacturing processes, you should set your team to catch new data points which means analyzing and tracking the data flow. By evolving your processes and tracking data, you have opportunity to understand why certain requests are approved or rejected or why the certain process takes longer than average or why certain team member needs more or less time to make decisions. This information can show you how to adjust your processes going forward and how to make general decisions about your operations. 

In the past five years, more and more manufacturing organisations have recognised the potential of automation. They began transforming their processes. And manufacturing sector enjoys errorless and simplified procedures.

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