Automation technologies have cut costs for businesses, help scale company operations, and greatly boosted efficiency. Experts project that 66% of businesses are utilizing solutions to automate at least one business operation. Clearly, investment in automation will only continue to compound.
Give its importance, it’s critical to gain a fundamental understanding of automation, its different forms, and the benefits automation can bring to businesses.
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What is Automation?
Automation is a technology that enables processes to occur without human intervention. Essentially, “automating” tasks means creating a situation where the system (or part of a system) will run by itself.
Early on, automation mostly referred to physical machinery that helps carry out laborious tasks such as printing text or manufacturing cars. This has drastically shifted in the modern age. Now, enterprises and individuals can adopt software solutions from third-party companies to automate tasks.
These tasks could be as simple as automated emails being sent at specific times, or as complex as preventing global cyberattacks from occurring. Automation is a key driver of digital transformation. Most of the solutions that businesses adopt to upgrade and modernize their operations are automation solutions.
Also see: What Does 2022 Hold for Intelligent Automation?
What Are the Types of Automation?
There are three main types of automation. These different types of automation relate both to physical production and more high-level, digital transformation-based processes.
1. Fixed Automation
Fixed automation, or “hard automation,” refers to a sequence of processes automatically carried out by fixed equipment configurations.
Because this type of automation is heavily dependent on a fixed system, initial investments and production rates are rather high. Furthermore, this process mostly refers to physical automation, such as mass car production that very rarely ever needs manipulation.
2. Programmable Automation
Programmable automation is best designed for a variety of sequences that occur in batches. For each new batch, production equipment can be reprogrammed for different tasks.
This system is best for businesses that are ever-changing in the products they’re producing or tasks they’re carrying out, whether it be business or customer-facing.
3. Flexible Automation
Because reprogramming systems is time and cost-intensive, flexible automation is often employed to limit the variety of products or processes so equipment changeover is easy to accomplish.
Flexible automation is currently the most advanced form of modern age of automation. It is an ideal solution, whether businesses are using automation to make in-house or user experiences more efficient.
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What Are the Benefits of Automation?
Automating workflows and processes can bring about a number of benefits for businesses, including:
- Greater efficiency
- Employee upskilling
- Reduced errors
- Streamlined functions
- Greater accountability
- Improved communication
Examples of Automation
Seeing automation in action can help businesses better understand the actionable benefits it can bring to operations. These include:
Customer Service: The first and most common example of automation comes in the customer service industry. Businesses can leverage automation to automate responses to customers, then leverage user data to provide more tailored responses. This helps businesses not only respond immediately to customers, but also in a highly tailored manner.
Payroll: HR departments have greatly benefited from automation with HR software solutions automating payroll processing. Advanced solutions help verify employee data, validate timesheets, and confirm earnings, reimbursements, and deductions. Even benefits administration can be automated. This helps take massive amounts of stress off the HR department when onboarding or offboarding employees.
Cybersecurity: Perhaps most important, automation can help businesses with strengthening their cybersecurity. Security is where AI and automation truly show their full potential when working together. Advanced solutions can train themselves and learn from human behavior, as well as previous attacks, to prevent any further breaches.
Greater Human Capital: Menial tasks have historically gotten in the way of employees reaching their true potential. When clerical tasks clog up hours of work, business efficiency takes a hit. Industries are aware of this as well. WorkMarket reported that 53% of employees feel they can save up to two work hours a day through automation. Offering even more potential, 78% of business leaders stated automation could free up to three work hours a day.
Also see: The Evolution of AI: How Enterprises Grow to AI 2.0