015: What Does Automation Do?

015: What Does Automation Do?

Automation is a huge buzzword these days. It saves you time and money. It frees you up to do new things.   And there’s another surprise benefit that comes with it. Find out what that is in today’s episode.     

Automation is a big word these days. 

I mean… it’s always been a big word, really. At least compared to smaller words like, you know, “donut” … “car” …… “mask”.

But regardless of the number of physical letters, automation is a big word because of what it implies.

And for good reason. To automate means to cut unnecessary time out of a process or to improve quality or to free your team up to do other things.

There is a lot of good that comes with automation. And we’ll talk about different aspects of that in future episodes.

But today I wanted to talk about one big benefit that comes from the actual process of implementing automation.

That benefit is standardization. (Yeah, I know. Another big word 🙂

What do I mean by that?

Well, I’ve seen this story play out time and again…. A company is trying to cut costs. They say “hey, let’s automate that process”.

Everyone agrees that this is a good idea.

They get quotes on what it will cost and compare to what it is costing them now. The risks, the benefits. And they give it the green light.

Then they start to get into it.

And a few steps in is when it happens.

The questions. The confusion. The lack of standardization.

That’s because automation requires rules. It requires answers. Consistency.

And what often happens is that the process of implementing automation reveals the lack of clear rules and guidelines.

All of a sudden you find out that the only way that you’ve been able to make your product currently is because your team members usually make some tweaks or decisions to make it work, or there is some tribal knowledge about a process that requires intervention each time.

For an example, let’s pretend you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich operation and you want to automate it.

You hire a company to automate the process for you.

Simple, right? Bread, peanut butter, jelly. Done.

Not so fast.

“What kind of bread?   Where is it kept?   Is it OK to use the butt of the bread?  What if the slice has a hole in it? “

“Where should the sandwich be assembled?”

“What kind of peanut butter?   Where can we find it?    How much on the slice of bread?   Should it go all the way to the edges?”

“What kind of jelly?… “

You get the picture.

The questions may seem annoying or obvious, but usually they help you fill in communication or procedural gaps as well as irregularities in upstream deliverables. You may not have realized until automating that there were so many exceptions.

And it is often those exceptions, those unwritten rules, those decisions that only Bob knows how to make and… well… Bob’s not here today.

So, along with the known benefits of automation, the standardizing that happens in the process (or, even better, beforehand) is really one of the true wins of automation.

Because then, going forward, there is a much clearer set of steps, rules and decisions in place for the next process that comes your way.

And that, to use a smaller word, is awesome.

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