Automation replaces human labor with machine labor. Almost every area of business is being affected by the automation of processes. This article looks at the ways in which automation is changing 6 familiar areas of business.
Automation solutions for inventory management are significantly improving the logistical capabilities of companies all around the world. This improvement is also felt in the accounting departments of many companies, where automation is used to more accurately track outgoings and incomings.
Keeping track of what comes in and goes out of a business’ possession doesn’t sound hard, but it can be immensely complex in real terms. Automation software helps accountants and logistics professionals project future strains on their inventories so that they can plan accordingly.
Manufacturing is one of the first areas of business to have been revolutionized by automation. The industrial revolution which took place from the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries saw the introduction of a whole host of automation practices that we now take for granted.
The continued quest for automation still dominates manufacturing innovation. Robotic manufacturing processes are now widely in use, and automated data collection and efficiency improving software is starting to become more prevalent.
Almost all business strategy planning is increasingly reliant upon data collection and analysis. We live in a highly networked era. More and more human interaction and activity takes place online. This has led to a so called ‘data deluge’ – an explosion of accumulation and diversity in the data that is available.
Big datasets are only usable when initially codified by automated systems. A human analyst would simply be unable to work with the vast quantities of data being produced. Automation software is used to visualize data that would otherwise by too diverse to quantify or identify trends within.
Driverless cars are no longer the exclusive property of science fiction. Several companies are making huge headway with automating transportation. Self-driving cars are even being deployed in major cities – which has caused some concern among safety advocates. Modern automated vehicles use a series of sensors to perceive the world around them – much in the same way as a human driver uses their senses. Data from RADAR, infrared, audio and video sensors is fed into a computer, which has the ability to apply the rules of the road to what it senses.
Driverless cars have the potential to drastically improve road safety. After all, they will be unable to break the rules of the road and incapable of drinking too much or falling asleep like a human. The issue, however, is that they can be deadly. Cars are immensely dangerous things, and many humans are skeptical of a non-human driver. Companies working on automated road transport designs are attempting to integrate complex machine learning in their vehicles in order to improve safety. If a machine can learn from mistakes, then it can become better at negotiating transportation tasks safely.
Driverless trains, however, have been accepted in many cities for years. In London, UK, an entire subway line is completely automated in operation. The Docklands Light Railway has been running an automated train service in the East of the city since 1987. Transportation automation integration is not entirely dependent upon technology. The willingness of a society to trust automation is just as important.
Walk into your local supermarket and you will almost certainly stumble across an example of modern retail automation: the self-checkout tills. Automation essentially replaces human labor with machine labor – in this case, a human member of staff is directly replaced. Self-checkout tills are also good examples of why automation cannot be complete. They regularly need interference from human staff in order to complete their tasks or to ensure that customers are not trying to get away with theft.
Amazon have taken retail automation to extremes. Their Amazon Fresh stores are almost entirely unstaffed. Customers simply walk out with their products and are charged accordingly. Biometric recognition cameras observe them taking products and charge their bank accounts accordingly. It is unlikely that this particular style of automation will catch on universally.
Common sense might tell you that healthcare requires a human touch: a genuinely empathetic and reactive person holding the knife or caring for patients. This might be true, but automation has many suitable roles in the healthcare industry. With mounting finance issues for healthcare systems dealing with coronavirus outbreaks, many organizations are choosing to automate in available areas.
Healthcare Global magazine recently compiled a list of predicted automation applications in the field:
Supply Chain Management
As was touched on earlier in this article, automation is revolutionizing the way inventories and logistics are monitored and kept up to date. Healthcare organizations have notoriously complicated supply chains. Hospitals, for instance, have to ensure that they have access to thousands of different kinds of medicine and thousands more kinds of medical equipment – all while shipping out highly contagious specialist waste and minimizing expired items. This is not an easy task. Automating healthcare inventory management systems will take some strain off of the groaning hospital logistics apparatus if applied correctly.
Customer and patient contact is immensely important in the healthcare industry. From helping patients order food to assisting callers during an emergency, having an efficient contact system is paramount. As in other industries, the healthcare industry is now making use of automated phone and online chatbot services to cut down on the number of basic requests trained humans have to deal with. Ultimately, it is hoped that this automation can cut down on waiting times and trained staff to deal with important contact requests more quickly.
Revenue Cycle Automation
In countries such as the United States that do not have fully socialized healthcare systems, a great deal of time and effort is spent attempting to recoup the money spent on medical care. Automating some of the most basic revenue cycle processes is projected to increase healthcare financial efficiency hugely. The current inefficiency of the revenue cycle in healthcare makes it ripe for automation – or perhaps more fundamental socialization.