Is Process Automation the Key to Higher Efficiency and Better Margins?
by Martin Kirshner and Joe Ciccarello, Gray, Gray & Gray, LLP
A more efficient company is a more profitable company
As your energy business grows and expands, it is exponentially more important to maximize efficiency and productivity by automating processes. Streamlining manual tasks and optimizing workflows through process automation is the best way to ensure your company can continue to grow without overwhelming infrastructure and personnel demands. And let’s not forget, a more efficient company is typically a more profitable company.
The good news is that there are multiple choices in workflow automation tools to help you accomplish this high priority goal. By identifying and eliminating existing and potential bottlenecks, securely bridging information gaps and streamlining time-consuming manual operations, you can increase capacity and clear the way for further expansion.
Process automation reduces the risk of human error and oversight that is inherent in manual tasks, leading to improved accuracy, limited mistakes and fewer “do overs.” Automation also improves speed, completing routine tasks faster and more accurately, and can be quickly scaled to accommodate growth without adding to your headcount. In addition, automated processes help to ensure compliance with an increasing number of regulations, reducing the risk of costly penalties.
The idea of implementing automated processes in your organization can be daunting. We have created a helpful four-step path that can provide guidance on the steps necessary to bring this efficiency tool into any business.
1. Identify the processes that are best suited to automation. Typical candidates are operations that are repetitive, time-consuming, prone to error and require an inordinate amount of human time and attention. For a propane or heating oil company this might entail something as simple as streamlining bill paying or as complex as automating inventory management or predictive degree day delivery scheduling.
2. Set appropriate goals. Know in
advance what you want to achieve through automating processes and workflow. These goals should be trackable and measurable. For example, achieving a specific level of cost savings, reducing workforce by “x” number of people, increasing productivity, or enhancing quality control.
3. Research and select the right technology solution. Not all process automation solutions are appropriate for all business applications. Choose the solution that works for your needs and budget and has the best chance of being implemented and accepted within your organization. This might be a workflow management platform, business process management software, robotic process automation or a combination of solutions. Some enterprise software platforms (like Sage Intacct) include integration solutions, or you might choose a specific process automation program like Workato that can create workflows to build a bridge between silos of information.
4. Implement, then test and train. Engage an implementation partner to help you develop a workable plan and assist with implementation, testing and training. Make sure your process automation solution does what you expect it to do before a complete rollout and get full buy-in from your employees to help ensure they will utilize it effectively.
By helping streamline operations, reduce errors and systematize workflow, process automation can deliver improved efficiency and productivity. The key to success in process automation is allocating the proper resources, including time, money, personnel and institutional commitment. With the right person in charge of the evolution, thoughtful up-front planning, careful selection of the right processes to automate, and a well-organized implementation, the benefits can be well worth the initial investment.
Marty Kirshner and Joe Ciccarello are Partners in the Energy Practice Group at Gray, Gray & Gray, LLP, a business consulting and accounting firm that serves the energy industry. They can be reached at (781) 407-0300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.