5 business processes you didn’t know you could automate

“Most industries can benefits from automation, including making manual tasks more efficient, safe and profitable.”

By Charlie Fletcher

Automation is becoming a more prevalent part of the business landscape. However, one of the mistakes too many company leaders make is to assume this is simply a matter of robotics in manufacturing. It’s important to understand factories aren’t the only workplaces that can make use of these advanced systems and tools.

In fact, the continued rise of our digital age is making automated processes more diverse. Developers are constantly establishing new applications for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Almost all industries stand to see some benefits from automation, including the advantage of making manual tasks more efficient, safe and profitable.

Indeed, this prevalence has resulted in greater affordability, meaning even small start-ups can have access to tools to make their company more competitive. Learn about five surprising business processes that you can automate with the help of technology.

Customer service

Customer service is one of the most valuable aspects of many start-ups. After all, building relationships with your consumers and creating a great customer experience can make or break your reputation. Some business leaders don’t even consider the possibility of automation. After all, it can feel as though computers aren’t suited to making genuine and personal connections with consumers.

Nevertheless, there are times when making a human connection is not at the top of a customer’s agenda. Automation can help boost customer experience through better communication, convenience and personalization. Chatbots can provide consumers with concise answers to common questions. They can also be combined with data analysis tools and use information about a customer’s actions to provide relevant offers and suggestions. Importantly, this approach gives consumers the immediate attention they need. They’re not having to wait in queues to make contact.

Warehouse operations

There are a growing number of start-ups using warehousing as a key part of operations. This isn’t just in e-commerce but also in sectors like food services and third-party logistics. Among the most challenging aspects of this is creating the most efficient strategy for day-to-day operations. While it may seem as though a warehouse is merely a tool for storage, there are a lot of moving parts functioning at any given time. Juggling these ineffectually can result in a significant loss of efficiency with knock-on effects on other areas of operations and even revenue.

This is where automation can be a powerful tool. AI applications in warehouse operations are becoming increasingly common. They can be instrumental in developing floor plans to ensure the most efficient workflow throughout the premises. By analyzing real-time data collected by sensors in the Internet of things, AI software can produce schedules and operational plans to improve productivity.

With larger and more complex warehouses, automated storage and retrieval practices can be useful, too. This involves utilizing software to pair your ordering processes with robotic technology at the picking sites. The software pinpoints items for removal or shipping, directs cranes or vertical lift modules to pick the items, and then has conveyor belts transport the items to the relevant shipping area. This cuts out a significant amount of time and the potential for human error.

Onboarding new hires

Onboarding is an essential aspect of building positive relationships in the workplace. Nevertheless, it can take a significant amount of time to perform manually. Preparing essential documents, guiding employees through the process and making connections can eat into the productivity of human resources (HR) professionals, managers and teams.

The good news is that onboarding, alongside other HR practices, is among the trending focuses of automation. The software tools used for HR are primarily designed to streamline the workflow and minimize unnecessary hurdles to productive engagement. You can load automated software platforms with all the specific paperwork, handbooks, and compliance checks that must be completed for each role. HR chatbots can also guide new hires through the process and answer any standard queries.

This approach can be particularly effective given the rise in remote and hybrid operations. Indeed, onboarding platforms can automatically issue new hires with e-learning training modules and engagement surveys to complete throughout their first months with the company. While there’s still a need for human interactions with immediate managers, mentors, and other colleagues, this form of automation can remove some of the heavy lifting. ML can also automatically keep track of important data that can inform future onboarding practices.

Streamlining skilled tasks

One of the concerns many entrepreneurs have is that the adoption of automation could seem like an attempt to replace human workers. However, this doesn’t reflect how automation is being used. It’s also not likely to happen in the future. Rather, integrating automation is more about supporting human workers to perform at their peak ability. Indeed, one of the most effective ways automation can be used is by streamlining the tasks of skilled workers.

It’s worth considering how the use of automated tools alongside skilled tradespeople is more of a collaborative process. On one hand, human professionals have the manual dexterity and nuanced ability to react to the unexpected that machines don’t. On the other hand, AI-driven technology can analyze huge volumes of data and perform repetitive tasks more efficiently than a person. By pairing skilled professionals with tools like automated task management software and robots, there are opportunities for safer and more productive activities across industries.

In fact, this automation partnership can boost skilled professionals’ value in the market. To collaborate effectively, human employees need to be able to troubleshoot and even repair the systems with which they’re working. This means expanding their skill sets to include elements of coding, maintenance and security analysis.

Social media marketing management

Social media marketing has become a powerful tool in the current business climate. However, part of the reality is there are various platforms, content types and post formats your company needs to utilize regularly. If you fail to provide valuable content on a frequent schedule, your demographic can easily move on to a competitor who does. Staying on top of this can be a serious drag on your time.

However, there are ways you can automate your digital marketing management to some extent. In terms of social media content, you still need to create the meat of the posts. However, you can utilize automated platforms to schedule, correctly format, and post to your various social channels. There are many platforms that will incorporate engagement analysis into the system so you can more effectively strategize your content schedule. This tends to reduce the amount of time you spend trying to juggle your marketing elements and allows you and your marketing team to focus on other tasks.

Automation has a range of applications for start-ups in almost all industries. Customer service chatbots can be invaluable for handling the initial contact stage of the customer experience. AI and ML can help you implement efficient warehousing practices. Your onboarding process can benefit from software that automatically issues key documents, training, answers and analytics reports.

While skilled trades and content marketing require attention from human employees, they can be supported by automated tools to streamline practices. Perhaps most importantly, the equipment to make the most of these opportunities is more accessible to start-ups than ever before. It’s worth fully exploring how you can boost your business by adopting these advanced platforms.

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About the Author:

Charlie Fletcher is a content writer and journalist.

Thank you for reading this article. Fetola regularly writes about small business development, sustainability and circularity, and has a passion for effecting scalable impact at the ecosystem level. To receive updates, please sign up here.