When you hear the phrase “automating manufacturing”, what immediately comes to your mind? Maybe you think of advanced, expensive robotics on the factory floor – disruptive to install and taking away human workers’ jobs. A big investment. Well, in this article, we’ll tell you about a different kind of automation. One with a valuable capacity for streamlining production and increasing efficiency, but also making employees’ working lives easier and better – instead of erasing them altogether.
This kind of automation doesn’t come with a hefty carbon footprint. It doesn’t require new, costly machinery. But it’s every bit as revolutionary as the production line innovations we discussed earlier. It’s called process automation.
Think about all the moving parts in manufacturing
You may be thinking we’ve pulled a bait-and-switch on you. “Process automation? How’s that going to make our facility more efficient?” Okay, stay with us here.
There are many, many processes carried out every day in a manufacturing business, from the back office and warehouse to the factory floor. All of these processes have their part to play, and all of them have their own effect on your overall organizational efficiency. They could be processes surrounding machinery maintenance, customer orders, and all kinds of other vital elements of production.
Even if one process may not seem to make a major impact on its own, it can create a chain reaction – a slowdown here holds up another process there, and so on. But when all your processes are working well, your entire organization is operating like a well-oiled machine.
How to streamline manufacturing processes with automation
With process automation, you can now digitize and improve processes across the spectrum, boosting efficiency in many areas, and streamlining production overall. Still a little skeptical? We’ll show you what we mean with some specific, practical examples.
We’ll look at how to streamline manufacturing processes in these areas:
- Safety checks and issue reporting/logging
- Providing customers with price quotes
- Receiving, processing, and fulfilling orders
Safety checks and issue reporting/logging
For some manufacturers, safety and machinery inspection processes are still highly manual and mired in paperwork. Enforcing inspection schedules and reporting are things that are often conducted inefficiently, relying on a lot of diligence and attention from employees, which takes up a lot of their time and leaves room for errors.
Ensuring inspections are enforced
By digitizing inspections processes and making them into automated workflows, manufacturers can now ensure that everything goes like clockwork. Inspections can be scheduled and tracked using these workflows, with employees prompted for action when checks are needed. They can record their findings via simple digital forms accessible on their mobile devices, and if further action is needed, other personnel can be automatically alerted.
Delivering new visibility and efficiency
With everything digitized in this way, it’s easy to check the status of tasks, and all the data is automatically logged and readily available. It’s much harder to maintain this degree of rigor and efficiency using old-fashioned paper forms and manual processes, but when process automation is introduced, everything can be faster and more accurate.
You can learn how our client Tomago, Australia’s largest aluminum smelter, improves safety via automation in this case study.
Providing customers with price quotes
Creating quotes for customers is another area where process automation is streamlining production. Like inspections, custom quotes can involve a great deal of time and effort if done manually.
Keeping quotes processes on track
When you implement workflows, the entire process becomes dramatically simpler, faster, and easier. All stakeholders who must be consulted are automatically notified when their attention is needed – e.g., to review and sign off a quote – and the customer/order information (such as quantities and other variables) can all be captured by digital forms.
Accelerating the payment process and freeing up time
The quicker quotes are created and provided, the sooner orders can be processed and fulfilled, and the sooner you get paid. What’s more, when your personnel are spending less time on quotes, they’re free to work on growing your business – for instance, nurturing relationships with new customers.
Our customer, a material-handling equipment manufacturer in Sweden, completely overhauled their quote processes in the way we’ve just described. You can read the case study here.
Receiving, processing, and fulfilling orders
Just like quote processes, manufacturer operations surrounding new orders are also ripe for process automation. Many businesses still rely on manual processes, including paper forms, emails and phone calls, and ad-hoc communication between employees.
Streamlining customer onboarding
Using process automation, new orders can be expedited all the way to completion. You can use workflows to handle customer onboarding, making it more accurate and smoother for everyone involved. Customers can provide their details via forms, and this data is automatically stored in your CRM system – rather than needing to be manually re-entered by your staff.
Keeping orders moving along in an orderly manner
When the order is approved, processing kicks off automatically with alerts to other members of staff to play their parts. All the relevant details are routed to the right people, along with a notification that their action is required. Orders are turned around faster and with greater accuracy, customers are happier, and they’re more likely to choose your business again next time. Everybody wins.
If you’d like to see how our customer Land’s End uses process automation to transform their order processes, we’ve got a case study for you to read here.
Start streamlining production with process automation
So, there you have it. Manufacturers have plenty of reasons to start deploying this powerful technology across their operations – and we’ve only given a few examples. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
Now that we’ve sparked your imagination, maybe you’ve started thinking about how to streamline manufacturing processes in your own organization. If so, Nintex would like to explore them with you. That’s what we’re here for, after all – to enable and support businesses to transform the way they work using the Power of Process®. Want to get started?
If you’d like to discuss how Nintex can help your manufacturing business harness the power of process automation, get in touch with us today.