Important Hardware Involved in Business Process and Workflow Automation
When it comes to business process or workflow automation, it’s relatively easy to find information and options on what software to get. However, automating business processes and workflows is not just about the software. There are also hardware involved which may not appear conspicuous because they are too common or because they work behind the scenes.
Before enumerating these hardware, though, it’s worth knowing the different areas or processes where automation yields excellent results. The nature of these processes helps explain the functions of the different kinds of hardware used in automation. They show how automation is not something software alone can enable.
● Repetitive Tasks – Obviously, automation works best in handling repetitive and rote tasks. Examples of which are manufacturing or assembly lines, security systems that monitor premises or facilities and execute automatic lockdowns, time tracking, inventory management, as well as the areas of shipping, purchasing, and billing.
● Machine-Addressable Decision-Making Points – There are areas in customer interaction wherein a decision can be made by a machine or system without necessitating human intervention. Examples of which are the prequalification process for loans (particularly in the assessment of the amount that can be offered to a prospective loan applicant) and the giving of quotes for products and services.
● Sensor-Based Tracking – Sensors are useful in tracking voluminous inventory as well as in the field of security. Product counting, identification, and quality control can be more easily conducted with the help of automation.
● Self-Service Portals – Whether it’s for employee or customer use, automation can speed up the completion of certain processes through self-service portals. They can be used to answer inquiries or complete transactions that don’t require a more thorough evaluation.
● Simple Research or Information Gathering – Surveys, polls, and other similar forms data or information gathering can be automated without compromising accuracy. There are even cases when automated data gathering yields more reliable information.
● Document and Transaction Management – Since documents and transactions can now be made electronic. As such, automating them has become easier. From purchase order preparation to order processing and budget approvals, automation boosts efficiency in document and transaction management.
● IT Back Office Processes – In most companies, data center operations are mostly automated. Doing this reduces the number of staff assigned for nighttime operations.
In the aforementioned areas where automation is applicable, the following list of equipment or hardware are bounded to be needed.
1. Computers and Input Devices
Obviously, computers are a basic necessity when doing automation. They provide the platform through which the automated system and users (people) interact. They enable the programming of the system, inputting of data, generation of processed data and other forms of output, configurations, and system modifications. It is through computers that software are installed and the automated system is monitored or managed.
Whether online or offline, servers are needed to enable the continuous operation of the automated system. Unless an enterprise or organization decides to adopt a cloud-based automation system, it will be necessary to invest in and maintain server equipment. The server is necessary for hosting applications, providing computing power, acting as a common database, and even for facilitating communications.
For automatic security systems, facility control, warehouse monitoring, and other similar purposes, sensors are a requirement. These sensors take the place of humans in deciding when an action needs to be done or how a series of actions are to be undertaken. These sensors include light sensors, movement and sound detectors, thermometers, hygrometers, smoke detectors, thermal imaging equipment, cameras, and other instruments that serve as the senses of an automated system as it monitors a workflow or process.
4. Digitizing Equipment – Business process or workflow automation is mostly made possible by digital information and instructions. As such, it’s also important to have the equipment necessary in converting information into digital ones. Some of the most common equipment required are barcode/QR code printers and scanners, image scanners, fingerprint and iris scanners, and digital cameras. These create electronic versions of physical documents or information that are not in electronic or digital format so they can be inputted in an automated system.
You may not realize it but automated teller machines and kiosks are essentially business process automation hardware. They allow employees or customers to interact with the operations or system of an enterprise or organization without the need for a human attendant. Automated teller machines and kiosks are sophisticated equipment composed of multiple components that perform scanning, computing or data processing, as well as communication functions. ATMs and kiosks can be used to complete simple transactions, answer inquiries, or gather information.
It’s difficult not to associate automation with robots, especially when it comes to mass manufacturing processes. These robots, however, are not the androids, humanoids, or cyborgs often featured in science fiction films or TV shows. These are robots designed to perform specific tasks. These are robots for manufacturing or other repetitive processes that require precision and tolerance for monotonous and endlessly repetitive tasks.
Automation in the present context almost always implies the combination of software and hardware components. Even the best web-based workflow automation and job management software like WorkflowMax cannot function without their respective hardware counterparts. There may be the option to have them hosted on the cloud but they still require at least one local computer (along with specific input devices) for users to have a way to interact with the system. Of course, not all of the equipment mentioned above are going to be used in all kinds of automation situations. However, it’s virtually impossible for business process and workflow automation to happen without both software and hardware. The purpose of this post is to highlight the fact that smart technologies mean advancements in both software and hardware, especially when it comes to workflow and business process automation. Powerful machines cannot optimally function without equally powerful software in the same way powerful software are bound to be limited by what the hardware counterpart can perform and output.