Robots and Automation

Simplify Work: Intro To Automation

What the #$!! is Automation?

I imagine, if you are like me, the first image that pops into your head when you say the word “automation” is a robot. Maybe it’s one of those arm robots that you see in manufacturing plants or it’s R2D2 zooming down the hall. Whatever image you see in your head, the word “automation” brings to mind something not-human doing something over and over again.

And that’s not a wrong image.

Simply put, Automation is a piece of software or technology that does the same task repeatedly so a human doesn’t have to do it. It’s about using resources more efficiently. It can also be about creating checks and balances so things don’t slip through the crack. But I’ll get into that later.

What? Software Replacing Humans?

Just so we’re clear, yes, I am talking about software doing something that a human normally does. But the tasks that we’re talking about a not ones that humans necessarily need to be doing.

Let’s go with a high-level scenario:

A customer calls your business and talks to your sales staff. The salesperson closes the deal, sends a note to Billing to invoice to the customer, and fires a note to Order Fulfillment to pull all the products to prepare the order. Billing has to create an entry for the customer in their system, create an invoice, and email that invoice to the customer. Order Fulfillment has to look up in their Excel spreadsheet if they have the product, pull the right things, then shoot an email back to Sales and Billing to tell them that the order is ready. And let’s not forget Shipping in this scenario…

Can you see all the places where automation could make this easier?

Saving the using better software to improve operations, for another conversation, here are the opportunities to automate this:

  • When Sales closes the deal and updates his spreadsheet, it could easily launch a couple of automated tasks in which Order Fulfillment and Billing are notified of the sale.
  • For Billing, it automatically creates an entry for the customer, builds the invoice, and shoots it off without the Billing person having to do anything. You could, of course, choose to hold off on the sending of the email (it could draft the email) and let the Billing person look it over one final time before it was sent.
  • For Fulfillment, the product spreadsheet is checked and if the product is available, it notifies Fulfillment and changes the inventory to reflect the sale. If not available, it messages Billing and Sales to tell them that the product is unavailable and the customer needs to be identified.

All of this could be accomplished using Google products (Calc for the spreadsheets, Docs for Invoices, and Gmail for email) and an automation platform (I used n8n and Zapier). There are much better ways to do this but I wanted to show something using free tools like Google.

Using Your Resources Better

Your staff are your most valuable resources. You can have the best products in the world but without your staff, nothing happens. Automation doesn’t replace staff, it allows staff to do more of what they should (and let’s be honest, want to) be doing. It gives them the freedom to answer phones, talk more to customers, follow up on past phone calls, explore new product and service ideas, and do all the things that staff can do to rock a business.

Implementing an Automation project is also a great opportunity to take a hard look at your operations and see where they are opportunities to improve, rethink, and revamp your company’s processes. I know that this can be scary but, honestly, it really helps companies. I’ve worked with many companies that were so busy, that rethinking their operations seemed like a nightmare, not an opportunity. But, just like a vacation, sometimes you need to take a pause on the rat race that is your business and see if you are doing things the best you can. In the end, improving operations is going to make everyone’s lives easier and maybe not make things as crazy.

What’s up Next

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to dig into Automation and how it applies to different aspects of your business. If any of this intrigues you and you want to hear more about how this connects to your business, you can drop me a line through my contact form or you can set up a time to talk to me: