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Uniting Continuous Improvement, Intelligent Automation

By Javier Villa - Botget


Javier Villa By Javier Villa | Founder - Thu, 09/21/2023 - 13:00

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In these unprecedented times, new software technologies give business leaders a competitive advantage to leverage their input and multiply their output. Putting it simply, doing more with less like never before. In this new horizon of productivity standards, only companies that are able to adapt to change will be able to compete productivity-wise. Despite specific labor cost advantages in some cases,  others will not be able to survive in the long run. This is where Intelligent Automation becomes  an opportunity for business leaders, and as we explore further in this text, more specifically, why Continuous Improvement (CI) leaders in Latin America are the perfect complement to elevate excellence within organizations.

What is Intelligent Automation?

Before digging into this paradigm shift and how this affects Continuous Improvement inside the organization, let us be clear about what Intelligent Automation is. Or easier, what is not:

  • It is software, not a physical object or hardware. Although it may sound related, it has nothing to do with industrial robotic arms or programmable logic controllers (PLCs). However, in order for the software to work, it requires a simple IT infrastructure.

  • It is fast to implement, on an order of weeks not months. Unlike traditional automation, which involves hardware, this technology can be deployed and replicated on any computer or server. This is different from customized software development, which is slower to deploy.

  • It automates repetitive, high-volume, and low-variation processes, not complex processes like strategic decision-making, problem-solving or human interaction.

Intelligent Automation can streamline low-level tasks done on a computer. Think of it like an relentless office clerk in every area of the company, working in the back so your team can handle high-value tasks and high-impact initiatives for the business.

In a similar way, an Excel macro is capable of automating certain spreadsheet steps. Intelligent Automation can execute a workflow in any system (legacy or new), interact with files, websites, and digitalized documents, and generate insights from data, just like a person would.

What does technology have to do with CI Leaders?

Now that we have a further context of what Intelligent Automation is, let us evaluate the huge opportunity in which CI leaders can play a critical transformational role for companies. 

In the 1980s and ‘90s, the Toyota Production System was the main inspiration for the Lean Methodology that gained traction in the US automotive industry, influencing different industries and countries to improve their operations, reduce costs, enhance quality and increase customer satisfaction. 

Lean principles require strong leadership to be able to create an impact in the organization. Because it involves the engagement of the whole organizational structure to deliver results. Other methodologies and trends emerged but the core principles of CI remain in many organizations. 

Nowadays, this is the perspective of specific CI roles in companies in Latin America:

  • Specific positions for upper management are not common

  • Senior and manager roles can be found in specific industries

  • Leadership for CI is shared by operations or quality directors

Although the role may not exist in all companies, the overall culture exists within organizations with result-oriented leaders. It can be easily detected in increasing efficiency, productivity, and full-time equivalent (FTE) reduction or cost reduction initiatives.

These CI leaders (either with the title or not) may see technology as a foreign matter; however, their visibility across the organization, holistic understanding of the business, process improvement background and expertise, gives them a potential opportunity to bring results to the business like never before. Nowadays in most organizations, IT leaders have a low grasp of the processes and only a small percentage of businesses have digital transformation positions.

Interestingly, all the soft skills required for control management and culture shift are aligned with these CI roles. Even  not having the hard skills for Intelligent Automation projects can be easily overcome with the know-how of the IT department or an external service. 

With Intelligent Automation emulating process workflows, the perspective shifts from a technology to a process and people perspective. Talking the same language of processes, CI leaders can impact the company's efficient growth directly while fostering a positive culture within. 

To conclude, based on the Latin American context, CI leaders are the most suitable members within companies to start evaluating Intelligent Automation projects to empower organizations to take further steps. They are the precursors for not only optimizing processes but also starting to transform them completely.

Photo by:   Javier Villa

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