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GAINING PRODUCTIVITY AND FLEXIBILITY THROUGH AUTOMATION By Josh Duane and Ray DeMelfi

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usinesses across the world are seeing increasing and ever-changing demands from their customers. Many companies are looking to automate processes with the intent of increasing productivity. They are turning to conveyor, robotics, and software to meet customer demands while combating the increasingly hard to find and rapidly rising costs of labor. This increase in automation can be beneficial in boosting productivity but can have the downside of limiting a company’s flexibility. The key to getting the full benefits of automation, while being in a position to adapt to any future changes in business, is combining the proper plan with the right level of automation. Planning for Automation When considering automation, starting with a well-thought-out plan often differentiates those whose projects succeed from those that fail. Some key steps in planning for automation are: Define restraints: Generally speaking, there are only a handful of reasons that companies consider automating

processes, and the most persistent motivators today are: to increase productivity, to supplement labor in cases where there are shortages, to combat the rising cost of labor, and to provide a safer working environment. The different ways to address these automation drivers are numerous. The key to fixing the issue is understanding and clearly defining what is restraining the operation. Determine business objectives: Determining what is holding the business back is important, but on its own, it does not paint the full picture. The goals of a business are equally important in determining what to automate and how much automation is justifiable. If, for example, the objective of a business is to decrease the ship time of an order, it would need to be paired with the restraints that hinder the ability for the business to ship same day. This pairing will define the framework for what needs to be automated. Have a plan for growth: Having a strategy for growth in place prior to the implementation of automation allows a business to move quickly when growth occurs. Designing the system to handle

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more volume than originally needed, having a plan for a future system expansion that is minimally invasive to the operating business, and having clearly defined metrics to determine what course of action to take are all things that can be done to facilitate future business growth. Have a full understanding of the impact: Newton’s third law has taught us that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This holds true for the implementation of automation. Addressing the restraint of a function within the business will have an impact on other connected or tangential areas. For instance, if the business’s objective is to reduce labor in the picking process and the decision to automate to increase productivity in picking is made, this increase in productivity may have a negative impact in packing and shipping. It is imperative to be able to follow the change through the system and have a plan to address all areas that the change could impact. Determining the Right Automation Fit Just because an action can be

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PARCEL September/October 2021  

PARCEL September/October 2021

PARCEL September/October 2021  

PARCEL September/October 2021

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