The increasingly competitive nature of business forces today’s firms to operate at their highest efficiency level. Organizations must strive to generate as much output as possible, keep output levels optimal, and prepare for future expansion.
When we use the word ‘productivity,’ we should be careful not to confuse it with ‘efficiency.’ The most basic definition of productivity is the ratio of output to input. For instance, the number of items produced or sold in manufacturing measures output, while the time spent working is considered a measure of input.
Productivity increases when an organization has the same output with lower input. Another way to increase productivity is by generating more production from the same input. Productivity maps to the amount produced, whereas efficiency relates to the quality or effectiveness of that output.
However, in the wake of the global pandemic – exacerbated by geopolitical events and ongoing supply chain disruptions – manufacturers will find it more challenging to maintain high productivity levels.
Statista reported that, in the US manufacturing sector, productivity decreased by 0.8% in the 4th quarter of 2021, having already dropped by 2.6% in the preceding quarter, representing an unwelcome double-dip in output.
With the disruptions mentioned above unlikely to resolve soon, many manufacturers could find it’s more complicated than expected to recover from these productivity drops. Business leaders will need to find new solutions to increase the potential of existing or reduced resources.
Software that enables companies to automate complex business processes is one efficient way industry leaders can maintain and improve productivity levels, even as they operate in an increasingly challenging business environment.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the functionality of intelligent automation software and walk through five key ways it can improve productivity.
What is Meant by Automation?
Automation is a category of modern digital solutions that help businesses achieve an outcome with the least amount of human involvement or supervision. Automation solutions perform tasks, increase efficiency and speed, or improve reliability in processes that human employees had previously executed.
Business Process Automation (BPA) is one prevalent outcome of digital transformation initiatives looking to improve productivity with new types of technology. Companies use BPA to identify and streamline inefficient processes across a company’s core operations. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a popular type of automation. RPA is a program written to emulate at higher speeds the specific steps an employee would typically take to execute a process.
Where is Automation Most Useful?
Businesses can implement purpose-built automation software in critical areas of a company to improve its working methods, including:
The order-to-cash process
Automation can create optimized sales operations that don’t need human supervision, allowing CSRs and sales teams to engage customers more effectively, ensuring that goods and services are delivered in full and on time.
Supply chain management
Automating important trade documents as part of the procurement process means companies can rapidly detect supply chain disruptions, mitigate risk, and proactively respond to shifting supply chains.
Automated solutions within finance can have a significant impact. Future-proof software can simultaneously reduce invoice processing costs and facilitate frictionless commercial relationships.
5 Ways Automation Improves Productivity
When you decide to implement automation within your organization, you stand to benefit from improved productivity in several essential ways. Here, we’ve outlined five ways automation increases productivity for manufacturers, though these factors may also be true for suppliers, distributors, or companies in various other industries.
Streamline admin tasks and improve operational efficiency
Often, many employees in an organization’s workforce must increase productivity despite time-consuming, repetitive, or burdensome tasks occupying their time and attention, diverting their focus from higher-value activities. Without automation software, your team may find repeating mundane administrative processes – for example, inputting purchase orders or validating AP invoices – an inefficient yet unavoidable part of your organization’s operations.
However, with automation, those repetitive tasks are taken care of by intelligent software, so you can realign your human workforce to what they do best. Not only will this make it possible for your employees to focus on valuable, human-centric work, but it will also increase the quality output they can produce because they will feel more engaged at work. Moreover, improved job satisfaction will yield higher employee retention rates for your business.
Ensure data accuracy and consistency
Ultimately, when a human employee faces extensive and unengaging manual tasks, the likelihood of them making an error becomes a practical certainty. Human error is unavoidable in manual processes, like the repetitive data entry necessary to process purchase orders. Erroneous data entering your systems of record can cause significant damage across the board. Similarly, when employees process information that feeds into shared data sets, there is always the potential for discrepancies and inconsistencies to appear across multiple systems. Lack of data accuracy and consistency will severely hamper what your organization is capable of producing and what productivity levels your business can achieve.
On the other hand, it’s possible that using automation software can enable your business to achieve 100% data accuracy, ensuring everything entering your system is correct and consistent. Automating your business’ repetitive, complex manual processes empowers your workforce to operate efficiently, with data they know to be reliable, free of the need to scan for errors constantly. Automation carries the added benefit of enabling solid and trustworthy reporting, with documents able to be updated in real-time. This means your employees are always on the same page, with everyone pulling in the direction.
Communicate with more effective internal systems
Suppose your organization relies on manual lines of communication. In this case, it can require a considerable amount of time for messages to reach the right destination, and there’s the ever-present risk that vital information will disappear into email spam folders, contain incorrect data, be miscommunicated, or otherwise lost. All these possible outcomes add up to a massive amount of time your company spends chasing down recipients or ensuring the validity of communication, time employees could spend performing more valuable work. In the worst-case scenario, an employee or department may act on incorrect information, wasting time and resources without delivering a positive customer experience. As a result, productivity decreases while the potential for losing revenue increases.
Part of almost every business process contains an element of communication. By achieving guaranteed data accuracy and streamlining communication channels, automation can help equip employees with better, more productive ways to collaborate.
Tighten adherence to industry regulations
The chances are that your business operates in a regulated industry, meaning that your employees must constantly be aware of and comply with a sometimes strict and potentially vast set of standards. You don’t want your organization to divert from legally binding regulations and incur the resulting penalties, so it makes good business sense to ensure your workforce is aware of those regulating standards at all times. The problem is that those standards may present a considerable amount of information to remember or narrow specifications to try and work within. Compliance, while necessary, can reduce productivity as employees slow down to ensure they meet specific standards.
Automation software solutions such as RPA are markedly more effective and successful at performing repetitive tasks in good time while delivering results that adhere to the given specifications. This can leave your human workforce free to focus on more complex, nuanced decision-making.
Reinforce workplace safety levels
Whenever humans operate tools, there is always the danger that a mistake, slip-up, inattention, or lack of skill will cause damage. This could mean an unskilled employee handling powerful machinery, leading to injuries in the workplace, or it could be human error in the use of complicated software, potentially leading to cybersecurity hazards and other digital threats. Whatever the danger, if and when realized, it will interrupt business operations and bring productivity grinding to a halt.
Naturally, rigorous safety policies and education programs will help manage these risks. In addition, there exists the opportunity to automate many business processes, creating conditions where the danger is massively reduced or, in many cases, eliminated. For example, production line machinery reduces the risk posed by unskilled or inexperienced handling, and automated invoice processing helps insulate sensitive information against financial leaks or cyberattacks.
Turning Productivity into a Competitive Advantage
Automation software is one path companies can take to address the complexities of today’s business environment. Companies can use automation to boost productivity without adding headcount or slowing down investments in growing the business.
Automation facilitates improved productivity by optimizing operational workflows while creating conditions needed for heightened efficiency. It can also prevent errors and mitigate risks, avoid wasted resources and boost the quantity of output a company is capable of producing without undercutting quality.
Get in touch with us now and discover how Conexiom’s touchless document automation can help your organization boost productivity without sacrificing efficiency or expanding your workforce.