How to make automation a pillar of your competitive strategy

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Removing pomegranate seeds from the fruit is hard and time-consuming. Imagine de-seeding a thousand and one pomegranates by hand. It does not scale.

This type of work is a great candidate for automation. When it comes to automation, it is common to ask about the time and cost savings. That’s a mistake!

Rather, ask about:

  1. What is stopping me from scaling up?
  2. Which activities would people stop doing, given a choice to start doing something else?
  3. Where am I fighting to stay in the same place?

Examples:

  1. A company has used historical data to improve design and scale up testing. Their past approach meant that 9 times the testing required 9 times the assets – men, material. machines and money. They now use historical data to predict which product concepts are likely to fail, making the same testing activity 9 times more effective.
  2. A field job required writing down lat-long coordinates to six decimal places. In the past, people scribbled down numbers in a notebook, then transcribed data into enterprise IT systems. The company has now issued iPads with an app that records coordinates in situ at the touch of a button.
  3. The vendors kept blaming defect rates on the weather. Defects introduced uncertainty into the system and buffering for losses had become a way of life for the Supply Chain team. They have now identified weather patterns correlated to high defect rates by mining 5 years of historical data.

This is what success looks like:

  1. Brought more products to the market with the same assets.
  2. Eliminated “data entry” from resumes of highly skilled experts, who can now focus on the job they were hired to do. (Or up-skill.)
  3. Removed buffers from estimation and improved relationship with vendors.

Time and cost savings are incidental.

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