4 Common Automation Questions for Beginners

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As the largest automation gathering in North America, every Automate brings together experts from around the world. Whatever questions you might have about automated solutions—whether it’s how they apply to your sector, or the automation basics—odds are you’ll find answers at the show. But in the meantime, let’s address some of the most common questions to get you ready for the event.

Question #1: How do I get started with automation?

A basic question—and an important one. Start by evaluating your business. Where are there opportunities for improvement? Then, identify potential solutions (as our exhibitors can tell you, there are a lot). Once you’ve got something that addresses your needs, start implementing. As part of that implementation, keep your employees informed and get them excited about these new solutions (after all, they’ll be interacting with them every day). Finally, use the technology to gain an edge in the marketplace, then look for more opportunities to grow. For a more in-depth look at how to get started, check out our blog post on the subject.

Question #2: Is automation only for large companies?

Nope! But don’t feel bad for asking; it’s a very common misconception. People hear “automation” and picture massive factories full of robots, farms blanketed by drones or other large-scale applications. And while big companies definitely benefit from automation, so do small businesses. Just look at family-owned soda supplier Leonard’s Syrups. A single robotic arm made productivity skyrocket—and its employees, less constrained by repetitive tasks, were able to focus on making the company grow.

Question #3: How do I calculate the ROI and payback period for my automation investment?

To calculate the ROI, start by identifying your workflow’s current cost. How many hours does it take to perform a task manually? How much does it cost to train employees on that task? How much output am I getting for this input? Then, determine the amount of time you’ll save and increase in productivity you’ll see if you automate the workflow. Be sure to factor in any additional implementation costs (e.g., training time) at this point, too. Finally, divide your net gain by the initial investment and multiply it by 100 to get a percentage:

     ROI = (Net gain ÷ initial investment) x 100

The Association for the Advancement of Automation has a ROI calculator available for this, as well. 

As for the payback period, simply subtract your annual savings from the annual costs, then divide the sum by the investment. With the resulting profit number, you can determine how many years it’ll take for your investment to pay off.

     Payback period = Initial investment ÷ Net cash flow per year

To learn more about how automation can lower your operating costs and improve profitability, check out this article.

Question #4: How will automation impact our current workflow?

The short answer is “for the better”, but let’s talk about why. Among other things, automating drives up productivity. Take robotic processing automation (RPA). RPA can handle repetitive, time-consuming tasks like invoice processing or inventory management, giving humans a chance to focus on more substantial work. So can user-friendly solutions like the latest collaborative robots, which employ user-friendly features to augment employee capabilities, simplify training in high turnover environments and streamline slow points in your workflow. Keep in mind that adapting existing workflows to automation can be challenging. You need to think carefully about where you integrate automation and get employees on board throughout the process. But the results are worth it—you’ll have a stronger workforce and a more scalable business.

Whatever your reasons for being interested in automation, you probably have far more questions than we can answer here. Whether you’re looking for something more industry-specific or simply want to dive into the nitty gritty of how actuators work, the best place to get insight is at the Automate Show in Chicago, IL, from May 6–9, 2024. Hundreds of exhibitors, experts and other professionals await, so register for the Automate Show for FREE today!

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