What are the Benefits of Lean Automation?

Lean process automation is the use of technology to execute recurring tasks or processes in a business where manual effort can be replaced. It is done to minimize costs, increase efficiency, and streamline processes.

Unlike traditional Business Process Automation where extensive transformational efforts are put in place, Lean Automation focuses on small and incremental improvements to achieve streamlined process that can be automated. The main benefits are:

  • Reduced operating costs

  • Increased productivity

  • Reduced likelihood of error

  • Reduced time in task execution

  • Improvements in internal communication

What business processes can be automated?

In theory all business processes can be automated to a certain degree. Whilst it is not realistic to strive for 100% automation across the end-to-end Value Chain, technology can support all the activities of a business.

Decide what to automate is part of a business strategy. A good place to start with is addressing the following:

1. Automated File Transfers

With Lean Automation, file transfers are integrated into larger workflows that include tasks like encrypting and decrypting the files or entering the information they contain into an ERP system.

2. Automated Report Generation and Distribution

Automation of reporting is one of the most time-savings activities that Lean Automation can help achieve. Regardless of the source of the report, whether it is an email attachment or a query from the company ERP, automation can schedule the generation and the transfer of the files using simple mail protocol through a distribution list. This can also be rolled out as partial automation, leaving the user to validate the content before files are sent, making the user’s job closer to a quality controller as opposed to a data processor.

3. Email Automation

By automating users’ inbox, the retrieval, storage, and management of the company data can be secured. The benefits of Email automation are also passed to internal and external communication while reducing the risk of data corruption. Simple rules can be implemented like having emails automatically compiled and sent once a document is saved or updated

4. Spreadsheet Automation

Maintaining spreadsheets involves extensive manual work like reformatting and manipulating data. Well-designed automation can streamline most of the manual work without the need of ad-hoc macros that might carry security risks.

5. Automated Business Application Integration

When businesses use different applications in different departments, automation helps eliminating the need of passing data from one system to the other.

6. Automated ERP Integration

From getting orders into the core system without manual data entry to notify a vendor of a new purchase order. More advanced features can include sending alerts to payables when a supplier invoice is overdue or to put a customer in credit stop if payments are not received within a certain time

What are the other business automation methodologies and why is Lean Automation different?

There are 4 main types of business automation processes:

1. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic process automation is a form of business process automation technology based on metaphorical software robots or on artificial intelligence /digital workers. It is sometimes referred to as software robotics.

2. Database Automation (DBA)

Database automation is the use of unattended processes and self-updating procedures for administrative tasks in a database like clean up obsolete files, provisioning Virtual Machines and allocate resources. DBA can go as far as auto scale-up computing power when workload increases if the database is hosted in a cloud server.

3. Server Automation

Server automation consolidates task and process automation into a single solution for more efficient application deployment as well as ongoing management across virtual and physical systems. It is particularly useful for organizations with multiple software suits used by different departments like when warehouse management system, material resource planning, HR and finance have their own standalone systems. Instead of undergoing lengthy, expensive, and often disruptive ERP migrations, companies can use Server automation to automate the flow of tasks between separate servers to reduce downtimes and eliminate risks of data corruption

4. Department Specialized Automation

With DSA business logic is implemented to automate single tasks within a specific department. Here the goal is not to streamline automation across the end-to-end process, rather it is a specific custom tool that is built to fulfil a role that is not otherwise covered.

DSA are the fastest to be implemented but there is a risk to create single automation tools that do not serve the overall needs of the entire business. This kind of automation is often rolled back as companies grow as they cannot fit in an overall digital strategy

Lean automation: The best solution for SMEs in growth phase

There are many differences between Lean Automation and the other 4:

· Lean Automation can help organizations at all stages

· The costs are low as Lean Automation does not require lengthy transformations.

· It generally drives the highest ROI as processes are redesigned before enabling automation

· It enables bottom-up continuous improvements through no-coding technology

Cons of Lean Automation: No plug and play.

The only “problem” with Lean Automation – which is not a real problem but a big advantage in the long-term – is that it requires the engagement of both the management and the teams.

With Lean automation companies start a journey of discovery where the teams are continuously engaged with problem-solving activities, eliminating bottlenecks, cutting down waste of time and resources through no-code technology that they own. Therefore, it requires the active participation of the end users as well as the senior management.

Failing to do so will reduce the benefits of Lean Automation. Companies who are not interested in driving bottom-up change, rather are keen on full on automation should consider Robotic Process Automation.