The global economy is in a precarious position. As a result, businesses are treading cautiously on expenditures, carefully examining their risk and withholding investments. Innumerable projects have been put on hold indefinitely, including automation projects. Yet these are the very projects that have a chance at countering the punch of COVID-19. The very projects that have the power to increase productivity, enable remote employees, and isolated customers.
McKinsey found that 77% of automation companies are reporting strong or very strong disruption to their demand as a result of the Coronavirus. That number has continued to gather momentum over recent months.
However, some organizations are looking at the challenge in the eye and embracing the automation imperative; instead of holding back on their investment, they are doubling down on automation. This decision has its roots in the Industry 4.0 movement and now the emergence of its sibling HyperAutomation.
The evolution of HyperAutomation
Industry 4.0 or the 4th Industrial Revolution is the next step in our economic progression. For years we have had two domains of technology in the business world. Operational Technology (OT) the original manufacturing domain made up of robots, machinery, firmware, and software along with other systems such as SCADA, HMIs, and embedded computer technology. Information Technology (IT), with a later start, added data warehousing, data processing, applications, networking, and hardware to the organization’s ecosystem. Naturally, the two domains fed off one another, leading to the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Much later, of course, came a myriad of disciplines and technologies that were not initially related. Including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) for decision making, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to free employees from repeatable tasks. Digital Process Automation initially aimed at automating workflows and sub-processes, but later combined with AI and RPA, to create Hyperautomation. Hyperautomation is an intelligent orchestration engine overseeing the machine and human interactions within a holistic process.
The lights-out operators
The two business domains of IT and OT are starting to merge through the use of Hyperautomation and digital orchestration. They enable data rationalization and technology synchronization across the organization, creating unified, holistic, value-driven workflows and giving birth to the possibility of lights-out factories, logistical centers, and offices. These facilities operate around the clock with no human presence, and all operations controlled remotely.
Indeed FANUC, a robotics manufacturer in Japan, has been operating a lights-out factory since 2001. Gary Zywiol told Redshift that the factory runs about fifty 24-hour shifts, 30 days straight without human supervision. He even likes to joke, “Not only is it lights out, but we also turn off the air conditioning and heat.” This was five years before Covid-19 raised the need for even more lights-out operations.
HyperAutomation and Digital Orchestration also enable all the traditional business-based functions. They are orchestrating ERPs and invoicing, with electronic and physical mail systems. HyperAutomation can even handle loans and assess risk to make recommendations before a loan officer even reviews the case. This creates new mobile and web-based platforms for homebound clients to submit any sort of case or order that needs processing, synchronizing all the activities and logistics needed to fulfill the request.
Of course, if you are a mobile phone user, you know much of this isn’t precisely new. What is new is the seamless way in which the cyber-physical layer now responds. For example, your shipping data today is still mainly scanned by hand to document its current location and status. But that is changing as Amazon, and their competitors, move toward lights-out logistics centers.
Automation opportunities abound
Indeed, in tightly regulated industries like manufacturing, cybersecurity-certified cloud environments have made automation even more attractive, by moving organizations away from the expensive overhead of wholly-owned server farms. Instead, the orchestration engine resides in a secure cloud with business continuity assured. Furthermore, the advent of platform-based automation allows the transference and implementation of automation templates quickly.
So the automation possibilities at this point are stupefying. I suppose that’s why it’s a revolution. But if everyone is holding off on the investment due to the crisis, why not just pause everything until it passes.
Consider this: Forbes reported in 2016 that just 33% of businesses were pursuing Industry 4.0 and HyperAutomation objectives, and roughly 72% of organizations were on the hunt when the pandemic hit. Now consider that, according to the World Economic Forum, industry leaders could see as much as a 70% gain in productivity with automation. In comparison, followers are likely to achieve a 30% boost in productivity in the areas that they automate.
If you’re a follower and your competitor, a leader, continues to invest in automation during the pandemic, what do you think that means for you? It may mean the difference between survival or failure. Or consider the alternative your competitor, again a leader, doesn’t invest, and you do? You overtake the competition.
In a nutshell, organizations that have doubled down on automation will see improved performance during the crisis. After the pandemic passes, those that have already automated will be ready for the new economy. Those who don’t automate will likely fail their constituents, suffer in the public eye, or at its worst, perhaps even perish.
Find out more about the Bizagi platform capabilities and how it can help you achieve hyperautomation in your business.