What Is Automation? (With Examples and Typical Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 21 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Automation refers to developing a process that completes activities without human input. Many professionals across multiple industries automate processes to improve the efficiency and productivity of business operations. Understanding what an automated process is can help you identify the careers that may benefit from automated processes. In this article, we discuss what automation is, list the importance of automating a process, share tips on automating operations and provide some relevant examples of automated processes in multiple industries.

What is automation?

Automation refers to creating procedures that can function without human input. These procedures may require monitoring and maintenance, but they rarely require human input to perform their function. Professionals may automate many processes to save time, resources and costs. The processes that professionals automate are usually repetitive, simple, time-consuming and involve a high volume of labour. Examples of automated processes can include basic accounting, email marketing, customer-support services and recruitment procedures.

Any industry can technically utilise automated procedures, though businesses that conduct many administrative tasks may benefit the most. This is because automated processes typically involve technology and computer artificial intelligence (AI). Some professionals who focus on labour-intensive duties, such as a carpenter, may still automate their administrative tasks, such as responding to emails and paying invoices. Automation is typically a popular addition to an operation, regardless of the industry or job responsibilities.

Related: Who is an Automation Engineer and What Do They Do?

Importance of automating a process

Below, you can find the typical business aspects that benefit from automating processes:

Lowers operating costs

Some manual processes and activities can require extensive resources or attention from professionals. By automating a process, you might reduce the amount of manual input and resources required. Automating processes can eliminate the requirement for jobs, which can reduce salary costs. It can also make procedures more efficient, which typically lowers resource or material expenditure.

Related: What is Cost Accounting? (Plus Different Types of Costs)

Increases productivity

Automated processes typically involve instant actions, such as immediate email responses or account entries. This generally improves the speed of processes because there's a minimal delay between sequences of activities. Because processes are usually quicker when automated, it can increase the productivity of a business operation. Professionals can essentially complete more tasks in a reduced time frame.

Improves customer service

Customer satisfaction usually improves when processes become autonomous. Customers typically prefer quick responses and clearly defined information. By automating customer response systems, customers can receive feedback and answers with minimal delay, which can improve their user experience with the product and brand. It can be important to understand that this may only benefit some customer service systems. In some situations, it may be more beneficial to provide customers with a human response. Some customers may prefer communicating with humans compared to an AI.

Related: What Does a Customer Service Representative Do? (With Skills)

Improves employee safety

Some automated processes can improve employee safety depending on their responsibilities. In the mining industry, large mechanical processes can pose a health and safety risk to personnel responsible for the operation. Automating mechanical processes typically reduces the need for manual labour, which directly eliminates or reduces workplace risk.

Increases labour efficiency

One of the major benefits of automating a process is that professionals can prioritise more important duties. Without the automated process, a professional could spend their time completing a mundane or time-consuming task while they could conduct more valuable responsibilities. This can improve the efficiency of operations and allow businesses to allocate resources effectively.

Improves workplace morale

Some professionals may prefer conducting responsibilities that contribute more to a business's operations. Some people may gain more career satisfaction from completing complex and challenging duties. Automating time-consuming tasks can allow people to focus on tasks they enjoy doing. This often improves employee morale, which can foster a healthy working environment and positive work culture.

Optimises data storage

Some businesses that conduct administrative tasks can benefit from autonomous processes. Some professionals may conduct administrative tasks that involve documents and paperwork, which can consume physical office space. By automating these processes, many of the physical documents become digital documents. Storing digital data is usually more efficient and cost-effective.

Tips for automating processes

Below, you can find some tips to consider when automating a process:

Understand the process elements

It's often a good idea to review the process you want to automate and ensure you understand the aspects involved. For example, if you want to automate accounting journal entries, you may identify the accounts involved, the typical transfer dates and the related clients. By identifying and understanding the process elements, you can effectively automate the process.

Set goals

It can be important to determine the goals and objectives you want to achieve by automating a process. You can use these goals as reference points when analysing the effectiveness of the automated process. For example, you may set a goal for the process to save you five hours of work each week. After several weeks, you might review your working hours and see if the automated process achieved its goal.

Ensure other systems can integrate

An operation may involve several automated processes depending on your responsibilities and employer. If you're automating a new process, it's usually a good idea to review the other processes and ensure they can easily integrate. This can ensure your processes utilise a single type of software, which usually allows for more efficient maintenance and monitoring.

Monitor the process

After you automate a process, you can monitor progression to ensure it's achieving its goals and functioning as intended. An automated process rarely requires human involvement, but it can still be a good idea to monitor it. There may be mistakes in the development phase of the process, which you can only identify by manually investigating. For example, an automated email response system might send the wrong email to customers, which you might only discover by reviewing the process.

Consider specialised software

Automating complex processes can sometimes require computer skills and advanced knowledge. There are typically software programs that specialise in automating processes. These programs may be specific to types of processes. For example, software that automates email systems would most likely not automate mechanical processes. Depending on your potential responsibilities and industry, there may be software specific for your processes.

Make the process flexible

Automated processes might require alterations or maintenance after a certain period. For this reason, it can be important to ensure the process is flexible. This means the automating process can easily change the task without completely resetting the process. An effective method of making processes flexible is usually to develop automation with specialised software.

Examples of automated processes in different industries

Below, you can find examples of automated processes in several industries:

Mining

The mining industry is usually one of the few industries that involve physical automated processes. Heavy vehicles transport earth and minerals to processing facilities in large mining pits. Some mine sites automate these large vehicles to follow a set path. This eliminates the necessity for a machine operator, which can reduce expenditure and improve employee safety.

Related: How to Get a Mining Job (With Salary and Requirements)

Marketing

The marketing industry often involves an abundance of automated processes. One of the most popular tasks to automate may be emails and push notifications. Professionals may still write the emails, but they often automate the task of sending them to customers. This can be beneficial for marketing operations that involve a large customer base. Professionals may automate these tasks by developing a time frame that automatically sends emails and notifications.

Customer service

Most businesses that incorporate a customer service feature may automate the process. For example, information technology (IT) departments may automate a ticketing system. This system may send automatic responses to clients with inquiries. It may also automatically notify a technician and store the customer's inquiry in a database for future reference.

Finance

In the finance industry, there's usually an abundance of automated processes. A process that most finance departments automate is organising accounts payable. This task often involves a high volume of work that's simple but time-consuming. The automation of accounts payable usually involves a process that quickly registers account details, client information and credit values. This allows a computer system to credit payments automatically and reconcile accounts.

Human resources (HR)

Large corporations that have a human resources department may implement automated processes regarding recruitment and employee management. Paying wages is usually a popular procedure to automate. If there are multiple employees to pay, it can be time-consuming to review and process each time record. They may also automate recruitment processes, such as reviewing job applications. Large businesses typically use an applicant tracking system (ATS), which automatically scans job applications and ranks them based on their suitability for the vacant position.

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