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Choosing the right industrial automation solution

February 3, 2023

Authored by RSM Canada LLP

Joe E. Reilly, CPA, CA, CBV shared this article

ARTICLE | February 03, 2023

5 ways to automate your business more effectively

While industrial firms in sectors like manufacturing, B2B wholesale distribution and energy are well-versed in automation on the factory floor, too often their overall operations struggle with disparate, disconnected systems. This limits the benefits automation can bring, especially in the back office.

When looking for solutions, automation is often seen as a way to solve a specific business problem with software. By taking a more systemic approach, however, you can implement a business automation solution that addresses more than a single problem or use case to extend automation’s benefits across your organization.

Industrial companies can use automation to help their systems do more of the work, improving operations. And by automating time-consuming, repetitive tasks, they can significantly improve the employee experience, creating a more engaged and loyal workforce.

When exploring business automation, here are five ways it can benefit your organization

1. Focus on streamlining your systems

An industrial company often has dozens of disconnected systems that were implemented over the years or collected during acquisitions. While these systems each serve a role, they’re often unable to connect easily, reducing the value of the data they create.

The right approach to industrial automation is to take a fresh look at all your systems and undertake a rationalizing process that allows you to winnow down your tech stack to only the core solutions you need. Rather than connecting 50 systems, you may only need to connect five. You can then focus your automation efforts on integrating those core systems and getting them to share data, allowing you to more effectively power future automation. This helps you maximize your existing investments while potentially achieving cost savings by sunsetting outdated, unnecessary or redundant systems.

2. Leverage all your data across all your platforms

Once you have access to all your business and operational data, it’s time to put it to work. Take the time to develop a carefully thought-out strategy that addresses how you can use all the data you create and capture to add maximum value. For example, the data created by a purchase order could have value for your warehouse, shipping, financial forecasting, sales, operations and marketing teams.

When you have your data in place, use automation to power analytical tools like dashboards. Rather than manually sorting through reports or spreadsheets, dashboards help people manage by exception, freeing up their time to focus on more important tasks.

3. Use data to improve supply chain visibility

As recent events have shown, industrials live and die by their supply chains. All it takes is for one small cog to go on back order to bring the rest of the operations to a standstill.

Automation can help you connect data sources in new ways so you gain specific insights into supply chain issues. Because automating can help make data more visible to all business users, not just the original keeper of the data, different departments can communicate and collaborate with each other, customers and partners more effectively.

4. Optimize the finance department

By incorporating automation into your finance function, you can help your finance team work faster and more accurately. This can help your accounting team close the books faster while giving your entire organization access to the accurate business data they need to make informed decisions about where to invest or where to cut costs. In addition to increasing your financial visibility, automation can also help improve your cash flow by giving you access to cash sooner.

5. Don’t forget change management

A legacy industrial firm’s employees likely follow processes that are decades old. Because they’re used to doing things a certain way, don’t expect your employees to be able to leverage the full power of a new automation solution overnight. Make sure you take the time to educate your staff on what to expect and how they should adapt to ensure your new automation system is embraced instead of ignored.

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