Robotic Automation- This past summer, McKinsey reported that 88% of businesses want to implement more robotic automation. However, it’s hard to know where to start, because planning and implementing that automation project can seem daunting. What processes in my plants should I automate first? How do I calculate my ROI? How do I handle high-mix, low-volume processes? How will my workers react?
If you are an enterprise or conglomerate, things are even more complex. Which parts of my business are most conducive to automation? How do I replicate successes across my entire organization?
These are the questions that many business owners and stakeholders have asked me, everyone from tier-one automotive suppliers to 10-person machine shops, from small businesses to Fortune 100 enterprises. Here are the five steps I share with them to make their automation rollout smooth, cost-effective and repeatable.
1. Find The Low-Hanging Fruit
When looking for opportunities to automate, companies often gravitate to the most difficult tasks. The rationale behind this is simple: Automation can be complex and time-consuming; therefore, companies look for the highest-reward applications that are “worth the effort.” What I tell my clients is that the processes they should look to automate:
• Are low in complexity.
• Underuse people.
Cause bottlenecks in production.
• Involve dull, dirty or dangerous work.
Whenever I visit a factory, I say the same thing: Show me a relatively simple process where a worker is spending more than half their time waiting for another process to finish, or where production is being bottlenecked by the availability of labor, or where that worker is constantly in reach of heavy machinery, and we should talk about automation.
2. Automate Incrementally
There is value in the large-scale automation of processes, but usually, a production process is a mix of menial, relatively simple, repetitive tasks and complex tasks that require significant worker knowledge and expertise. It is a mistake to try to automate this entire process because automating the tasks that require significant expertise will inevitably require a huge investment in time and money.