No matter what investment you make in equipment and software for workflow automation, you will not achieve the greatest success without teamwork driven by top level management. Any automated system with the right team can save money, prevent waste, increase capacity and improve the quality of a business overall. Every member of the team needs to understand the importance of keeping the system running efficiently and paying attention to changes or differences that might occur. The following common issues can reduce the benefits of running an automated system:
Sales people have the benefit of providing their customers with fast, quality products and can promote their system’s qualities. Sales people do need to understand all products available through the automated system. Selling special items not on the systems menu is costly and slows down production of the fully automated work. Stick to one set of products for the automated system and use a separate system for special orders to save time and money. Reinforcing the idea that the system is not to be changed or altered to handle one specific item should be part of initial orientation.
Operators need to keep a maintenance schedule for all equipment and computers used by the system. Short run, “One Off”, and any other on demand production takes its toll on hard drives, scratch disks, RIPs and Raids. Files are copied and deleted more often than manufacturers had anticipated causing fragmentation and performance reduction. Keeping logs for maintenance is the best way to ensure that materials are not wasted and equipment doesn’t run the risk of failing during an extra busy period.
Upgrades should be scheduled and only performed after backups have been completed. It is not always wise to have automatic updates activated on systems used for automation. Not all upgrades are successful and a ready backup will eliminate downtime for reloading. Keeping the upgrades logged along with the maintenance schedule is the best practice.
All members of the team should understand the importance of feedback. An automated system will make the same mistake over and over again until it is noticed and reported. Feedback means detailed information written down with times, dates, error messages, descriptions or samples. Often operators will complain of something “always happening” but never report it. There are instances where an operator may go outside of the system to get what they need. This is the worst thing that can happen in an automated environment. Every part of the team should have a way of reporting any connection failure, odd looking file, missing file, etc. to the rest of the team. The faster problems are caught and solved the more cost efficient the system becomes.
When an automated system is introduced, some employees see this as replacing their work and feel threatened. This can often undermine the success of a new system. A strong commitment from the top levels of management is needed to send a message to employees that the system requires a champion at each level and that teamwork will make everyone benefit and in many cases learn new skills. In all cases, top management makes or breaks a successful setup of an automated workflow. They must choose the right software, support people and lead the team that will make it all happen. When work is done automatically it is not time to walk away and let it run. Continuous maintenance, feedback, upgrades, backups, and team involvement will make it succeed.