Automation Solutions & Transforming to Touchless
Historically, conversations about automation produce two schools of thought. The first is excitement about obvious conveniences like fewer mundane tasks and increased efficiency. The second is fear around job loss and economic benefits for a select few. We want to take a fresh, candid look at Automation Solutions to get a current, real-world idea of what problems we can solve and realistic drawbacks we need to manage.
As with all growing fields of technology, we, as its creator, get to decide how to use it properly. Now is the time to be a part of conversations about how automation can help at an individual level, all the way up to bringing about beneficial systemic change.
The Idea of Automation
Automation and technology have walked hand-in-hand for thousands of years. Depending on how broadly we apply the term, any mechanism or tool that performs a task for us may be considered automatic. When you flush a toilet, water carries waste away automatically. When you move rope on one side of a pulley, the other side (and anything attached to it) moves the opposite direction in response. Human beings have been automating tasks almost as long as we’ve been making tools.
Things are, of course, different in today’s world. When the automation of a task can cause ripples like job loss and resulting poverty for anyone dependant on that income, the ethics of applying Automation Solutions are complicated. Even more so when automating a task and removing or limiting exposure to other people improves health and safety conditions during a pandemic.
The ability to automate tasks is downright critical as humanity faces climate, health, and economic challenges that affect billions of lives. So, the conversation isn’t about will we automate, it’s about how.
Top 5 Automation Solutions for The New Normal
1. Smart Warehousing
The boom in online shopping this year has placed a new focus on the efficiency and sanitation of warehouse spaces. As various shipping carriers experience a variety of delivery window challenges – not the least of which is volume – being able to shave days off a package’s transit time is important.
Accurate inventory management, ease of picking, and packing, along with guaranteed health and safety will make the difference between fast order fulfilment and lost business. Warehouses that are equipped with digital inventory control and automated fulfillment will still need a human element, both for order verification and impromptu decision-making.
2. Augmented Retail
Retailers adapting to new consumer expectations as well as health and safety regulations may want to consider smart signage and packaging that reduces interaction with employees. If you can combine a proprietary app and augmented print collateral with a wealth of FAQ and product information, you’ve both improved the customer experience and removed a layer of interpersonal contact.
Staff members that were previously assigned to interact with customers to answer questions and suggest products can be reallocated to providing the content required for this kind of Automated Solution. You will still need to draw on the expertise of your people to make an automation strategy successful with your customers.
3. Hands-Free Spaces
Now is the time to keep pushing towards low or no-contact public or shared spaces. Don’t settle for the bare minimum you were required to implement earlier this year. Keep looking for doors, handles, taps, knobs … anything a human must place hands on to operate and we can give you an automatic alternative.
Keeping hands off surfaces is ideal, but not a replacement for cleaning routines. Use a combination of UV lights, robot vacuums, automatic sprays, and real human cleaners to achieve the highest possible sanitation standards for your store or office.
4. Data & Analytics
Are you completely happy with the way your business collects, manages, and analyzes data? Are you totally confident that you’re able to make the best decisions possible, particularly when your team needs to work remotely for the foreseeable future? Given the volume of data most organizations are inundated with, we don’t see how the answer can be yes to either of those questions.
Augmented analytics tools can help your best data people do even more amazing work. You still need a human brain to filter recommendations and predictions. To ensure that you’re not just happy, you’re impressed, we recommend using both the best software and the best people.
5. Packaging & Preparation
In the video below, you’ll see various food products being automatically portioned, sealed, and packed. This is both cost-effective and sanitary. Those two benefits hold new value today. No matter what you produce, if it’s a physical product, you want to be able to guarantee minimal contact with human hands.
We think there is room to both automate product packaging and create eco-friendly materials that replace as much plastic as possible. And don’t forget that there is an opportunity to augment that packaging as well, outlined in the second point above. The result would be a sanitary, environmentally responsible product that comes equipped with customer service. If it sounds like a lofty goal, we’d like to introduce you to the tech that will make it a reality.
Planning Thoughtfully for Automation
Automation Solutions should enhance your operations and benefit your employees concurrently. Beyond that, your solution should enhance your industry and the community in which you operate. We like the example of a supermarket that uses an automated checkout not to replace a cashier, but to change his or her role to that of a personal shopper. The individual remains employed and customers enjoy the convenience of processing their own transactions, shopping online, or using a combination to best meet their needs.
Applying the employment shift to a data analytics role, an employee can create more accurate recommendations when assisted by a machine learning tool. We operate under the belief that human instincts and ethics will always need to play a role in how we collect and manage data, even in huge volumes.
Your Digital Transformation Plan
If you’ve decided to implement one or more of the solutions above, we recommend making it part of a larger Digital Transformation strategy. Overhauling processes and infrastructure takes time. To do it successfully is to do it systematically, starting with a detailed evaluation of what needs to change in your business, how, and why.
Having a plan not only encourages you to slow down and evaluate systems properly, but it also gives you a framework to keep yourself accountable for each issue. Automating thoughtfully will be a much more attainable goal when it is implemented as part of a holistic and ongoing commitment to growth.
A Technology Partner for Automation Solutions
Stambol visionaries have been dreaming up innovative solutions for the world of the future for several decades. Our team’s combined experience with software development and technology-based creativity makes us an ideal partner for Digital Transformations. And that experience has shown us time and time again how valuable a fresh pair of eyes can be when it’s time to shake things up.
Reach out to our team to learn what we can offer in the way of thoughtful Automation Solutions and other scalable tech upgrades to keep you moving forward for years to come.
Feature Image Credit: panuwat / Adobe Stock