The world is impacted by automation at an ever-increasing rate. Tasks which once employed thousands are now completed by computers. Even a trip to your local grocery store shows the innovation in automation as self-checkouts replace cashiers. Expect to see more and more automation as computer programmers teach systems to think more like humans.
Research predicts 70 percent of tasks could become automated in “high risk” fields such as transportation, food prep and office admin. However, businesses and people will benefit as menial tasks get automated, and humans focus more on invention and improvement of processes.
Horizontal automation is when you introduce one task at a time across all processes or servers. It eventually builds a library of solutions which automate your day-to-day tasks. This free up your time for other things. The thought is that horizontal automation gets you to the end result faster than vertical automation. It implements one task at a time on one server or machine. While the solution isn’t always that cut and dry, you can see how horizontal automation saves time and increases productivity.
Some of the clear benefits of horizontal automation include:
1. Creation of Universality
For businesses, imagine the benefit of introducing tasks which are universal to all departments in your company rather than a single department. For example, your sales team discovers software which automatically updates your inventory when a customer makes a purchase. Horizontal automation also integrates this data with logistics to ensure the items ship out almost immediately and then throws an order toward inventory control so the items are replaced and in stock for the next order. Look for processes which help as many departments as possible do their jobs better.
2. Management of Remote Workers
Around 16 percent of companies around the world are fully remote, and 40 percent have a hybrid model where employees work from home some and in the office some. As the competition for top employees increases, offering perks such as the ability to telecommute at least part of the time helps companies attract the best of the best. However, there are some drawbacks to managing remote workers, which automation helps navigate.
With horizontal automation, you can update all systems so remote workers have data at their fingertips to work directly with clients. Possibly pull a project in real time and save changes on the fly.
3. Combined Efforts
Do you ever find yourself repeating the same tasks repeatedly? Nothing kills productivity like wasted and repeated effort. Today’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems allow for the integration of software that automates menial tasks.
Studies show that employees waste up to 40 percent of their day looking for misplaced documents or trying to pull info from mismanaged filing systems. Automation puts everyone on the same page with how and where items are filed, making them easy to find. Some systems also allow for advanced searches and filtering so pulling up information takes mere seconds.
4. Enabled Autoresponses
Artificial intelligence (AI) is at a point where robots can now respond via live chat or email and sound almost like a real person conversing. Think about how much of a typical day is spent answering basic emails — often similar questions. What if you could train a computer to answer basic questions and screen customers who need more specific help to the appropriate department?
In the past, telephone automation systems frustrated users who would push a button but be taken to an unrelated department and forced to repeat their question or concern. Today’s AI is more advanced and filters users to the right department. It collects basic information ahead of time, such as account number.
5. Established Processes
Your business works like a well-oiled machine when everyone understands the basic processes to run your business. Not only does sticking to an automated process save time and effort, especially when going back to the information later and looking it up, but it also simplifies training new employees. The advantage of horizontally automating processes is that all departments will have the same information at the same time.
6. Increased Reliability of Products
Automation in manufacturing ensures products are free from variation and of human error. While automation does impact the number of manufacturing jobs, it increases jobs in other industries such as IT. There is also an argument that manufacturing automation protects workers from unsafe work environments. Some companies may find there is a happy medium between full automation and only automating those jobs that are repetitive and don’t require the attention to detail a human eye provides.
For example, in a chocolate factory, a machine might punch out exact replicas of candy and wrap them perfectly. But when it comes to placing them in a beautiful arrangement, humans complete the task and give each one a creative twist.
7. Improved Accountability
For managers, it’s difficult to keep up with every employee and the tasks on their agenda. Items fall through the cracks, or some employees are more productive than others. However, with automated systems, managers can set up processes where they’re notified of missed deadlines and upon completion in each step of the process.
The advantages to remote teams are obvious as people from all over the world might work on different aspects of project and automation allows everyone to see what was checked off the to-do list. However, automation helps in-person teams so time isn’t wasted in meetings and discussions. That way everyone can see where different players are in the process of meeting goals.
What Does the Future of Automation Look Like?
There are still some kinks to fully automating the world around us. However, automation speeds up internal tasks and helps companies save money in the long run. The world becomes more and more connected through the Internet of Things. But more minor tasks to shift to the work of robots and computers, and the benefits to businesses to become more obvious.