How to Choose a Project for Automation

How to Choose a Project for your Automation

Robotics automation is growing increasingly popular across all industries, with an estimated 64% percent of organizations beginning to integrate RPA in 2017. Many entrepreneurs who own businesses both big and small are looking to reap the benefits of automated technology but aren’t sure where to start.

Integrating robotics automation into your business is a critical advantage to staying ahead of the competition, but not all processes are good candidates for automation. How can companies decide which processes are the right ones to automate? And how can business leaders ensure successful integration and a healthy ROI (return on investment)?

The key to successful robotics integration lies in choosing both the right partner and the right processes to automate.

What processes can be automated?

McKinsey Institute reports that while less than 5% of current jobs can be completely automated, about 60% of jobs have a portion of daily work or tasks that could be automated. This level of automation would result in significant labor savings and allow employees to focus on valuable, high-level work that impacts the bottom line. Experts encourage industries to frame automation in precisely this way. Not as a replacement for human labor but as a helpmate for the workforce that could dramatically advance efficiency.

Which kinds of processes are best suited for automation? Harvard Business Review advises entrepreneurs across all industries to focus on the following kinds of work for the best return on investment.

  • Repetitive work
  • Independent processes
  • Physical tasks

If daily work fits the description above, a more in-depth assessment of the tasks or series of tasks in question is warranted. Asking yourself these questions will help zero in on which processes are best suited for automated technology integration.

  • Repetitive: Does the task or work occur in high volumes?
  • Simple: Can be easily modeled by one person?
  • Consistent: Does it require frequent exceptions or system change?
  • Predictable: Does it follow a set of clearly defined rules?
  • Controllable: Can it provide data that is easily monitored?
  • Low risk: Do your operations rely solely on the output of this work?

While there are benefits to attempting to automate more complex tasks that could provide efficiency gains, these guidelines are a good place to start in identifying your first robotics process automation project.

Which processes provide the best ROI with automated technology?

Just because you can use automated technology doesn’t mean that you should. There are trade-offs, and the key to a successful project is knowing how to determine which processes are worthwhile. ROI or return on investment is an important consideration when you’re weighing the benefits and costs of automation.

To learn more about calculating the cost of automation, you can visit our guide below.

How to Justify the Cost of Automation for Your Business

In addition to ROI, there are other critical metrics to consider that provide insight into the potential of robotics integration for your business. One of them is called the Forrester “Rule of Five.” The rule of five maintaining that when choosing a process to automate, tasks or series of tasks should involve fewer than five decisions, five applications, and less than 500 clicks to ensure successful integration.

“Today’s fast and flexible robots work in industries ranging from foods and baking to semiconductor manufacturing and research.  While still a mainstay of high-volume production, robots are finding more roles in small to medium-sized operations.  Any repetitive task is a candidate for robotic manufacturing, especially if it’s difficult or dangerous for a human, or takes place in a hostile environment. 

What’s more, adding force sensing and vision systems lets a robot adapt to changes in part position or orientation, increasing flexibility and versatility. Moving quickly and accurately, robots handle parts too small for human eyes and fingers and never make mistakes. 

That’s one reason growing numbers of products are designed for robotic assembly from the outset.  Vision technology is fast becoming standard, reducing the need for expensive fixturing and tooling, and force sensing let a robot adapt when an assembly problem is encountered. Almost any manufacturer or producer can benefit from putting robots to work.” —James G. Wendler, President & CEO of SPI Automation

It’s also important to remember that robotics automation isn’t intended to replace humans but to support the existing workforce and provide labor savings that keep you ahead of the competition. You and your human employees are still ultimately responsible for the output of the robots you use, and they’ll still require attention, maintenance, and constant improvement.

Questions to ask before choosing a robotics automation project

Before you decide which process to tackle with automated technology, ask yourself the following questions. These considerations should clarify that you’ve chosen the right task or series of tasks that will result in successful robotics integration.

How much involvement do your employees have in this work?

Determining tasks that are time-consuming but ultimately transactional are key. For instance, inputting customer information manually or transferring goods from one place to another are repetitive manual tasks that your employees spend time doing to serve customers. Automating those processes results in employees who have more bandwidth to spend interacting directly with customers and improving the consumer experience.

How complex is the task or series of tasks you’re considering automating?

Complexity is a factor of the number of applications, the frequency of interaction, and the number of steps you must take to execute a task. While the potential of automation to handle a more complex task will provide greater efficiency and quicker return on investment, there’s also a risk of failed integration. Therefore, it’s critical to carefully select the process to automate and find a robotics integrator who has the relevant industry expertise to help.

How often is the task or series of tasks performed?

To provide the most significant impact, robotics automation focuses on repeatable tasks that sit within systems or processes that remain mostly consistent. Once you’ve determined these tasks and integrated automated technology, you’ll quickly see increased productivity because robots don’t require breaks or need to go home at night. Besides routine maintenance and software updates, robots have a labor output for menial tasks that humans can’t match.

Is this process stable and can it be standardized?

If the process can’t be clearly articulated by a set of rules or modeled by one person, it’s probably not a good candidate for automation. Beyond the potential consistency of the task, it also needs to sit within systems or processes that don’t undergo frequent change. For instance, one of the challenges in automating industries in the retail sector is the inherent inconsistency of customer service issues and the complexity of variables that occur in management decisions. Robots can certainly man the checkouts, but they probably aren’t ready to handle returns and face-to-face customer interaction in retail spaces.

Is it a process that can be outsourced?

Some industries have regulations that don’t lend themselves to being handled by third-party vendors, but this is where robotics automation can be an effective partner. Tackling these things through automated technology in house can provide greater control over quality and provide more oversight in terms of compliance. Because automated technology also collects more data, it can become an asset in case of an audit by a regulatory agency.

SPI Automation Can Help

Need help identifying the right process to address with automated technology? Talk with SPI Automation Automated Technology, Inc. at 801-233-8000 or contact Jim Wendler or Ryan Park to see how we can help.

Our goal is to truly understand your industry and commit to helping you work through the challenges of integrating automation into your workflow. We strive to help businesses choose tasks that maximize efficiency so your company can experience the benefits of increased productivity. We’re committed to becoming not just your robotics integrator, but your partner in automation integration.

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