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Careful, but effective first steps

Reassessing automation as a result of the COVID Crisis

It is strange, yet understandable, that people everywhere are living in the second phase of the COVID-19 Crisis. We are not talking about the infamous “second wave”, which is the resurgence of the virus from a health perspective that has been sufficiently covered by the media; instead, we are talking about the next stage of the economic crisis, which will be very different from the previous one.

Steps towards efficiency

Indeed, we are well beyond the first reactions. It might be difficult, and indeed misleading in many ways, but if we had to evaluate the responses of businesses as a whole, we would still have to say that the economic operators were in no hurry. They did not behave recklessly. As a first step, they generally responded to the situation with home office solutions, and then, depending on the country, after the economic restart, they started letting the workers come back to work prudently, slowly, and of course, in compliance with the appropriate local regulations. After watching decision-makers, it became clear that everyone had learned from 2008’s Great Recession, and people were trying to stay proactive. Not too many uttered the phrase that was thrown around more than ten years ago: “everything will be back to normal soon”. Most economic operators were aware that it was not possible to play wait and see. As a result, business owners and managers have begun to plan seriously for a “new world order”. Efficiency has clearly played a vital role in this, of course not in the traditional sense of cost-effectiveness, which used to mean that each line item had to be examined individually before it could be trimmed or even cut entirely. Now, other processes are taking place at companies around the world. The main concern is how to maintain or increase production by using less office space, all while retaining the undeniable benefits of the home office. A related issue is how to significantly reduce the “living” workforce without decreasing production. In addition to these concerns, sales strategy issues attracted more focus, which strived to effectively follow the shopping habits of rapidly reorganising consumer groups.

New questions, constructive answers

It is evident that automation is one of today’s most evolving businesses. The field is not new, and some companies have been taking advantage of it for a long time, but in recent months, there has been a drastic increase in interest and subsequently demand for automation solutions. Because there are processes and areas in every economic sector where a constructive automation project offers significant time-cost-money efficiency, the decision-makers who have thus far refrained from it, mostly for personal reasons, are now also open to the topic.

You can see that the interest is continuously growing and obviously this is the time when important questions are coming up. Companies have underlying problems that have kept managers from utilising automation sufficiently in their work so far. We have seen that even a well-trained manager cannot appreciate the complexity and importance of the field. Market participants usually talk about specific machine procurement projects and process transformations; moreover, technical colleagues mostly talk to other technical colleagues. This lack of awareness makes it very difficult for the benefits of automation to rise to the strategic level, where the business owner or top manager could incorporate these types of solutions into their particular corporate vision. Simply put, without high-quality consulting that builds a bridge between the technical and economic fields – making both transparent and understandable for one another – automation is stuck at the level of simple procurement. Unsurprisingly, there is a growing interest in companies that provide consulting services that bridge this gap.

A new type of strategic consulting

Automation consulting needs to be part of economic life. But based on market experience, the top decision-makers are still hesitant, because it is strange to include this topic in the strategic business development phase. However, the facts show that it is vital. Because profit growth is planted firmly at the heart of the business strategy itself, and because automation is a clear tool for this, it has become an increasingly integral part of strategy-making from the outset, and not just for manufacturing companies. Smart business developers are also beginning to recognise the power of this “new” field and are motivating clients to change their attitudes. If we ask professionals, the place of automation consulting is clearly defined: strategists need to incorporate it into the process when they are discussing how to generate future profits. And, based on experience, that is at the very beginning of the process. There is already an international representative of this new direction, LENS Consulting Group. They have strategically transitioned from the field of machine procurement, process control, and reorganisation to the new direction of premium consulting, and they have trained their professionals to serve the decision-makers of the future. As experts of this new profession, they warn decision-makers that seek serious improvement about two critical things: first of all, automation consulting requires an extensive automation and control background because it is not traditional consulting. Secondly, automation must be empathetic because with the efficiency that it brings into a company’s life, it can ensure the survival and development of a company that would otherwise close its doors. Plus, it motivates and supports companies that want to move in new directions, which ultimately preserves existing jobs.