Automation: It’s not just for big business

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Automated technology can help to iron out inefficiencies and complement certain (often repetitive) processes. No matter your business size, it can free up your team to focus on serving customers and fulfilling business activities that demand attention.

Worker scanning a delivery package

McKinsey & Company research shows that prioritising automation can contribute to helping Australian businesses thrive. In 2018, it found that making business-process automation a priority could help a business succeed beyond infancy – fast forward to 2020, and this year’s findings show that prioritising automation has become even more important. Automation might sound daunting, but it can help your business become more streamlined and potentially save you hours of time each day.

We spoke with two businesses that are at different stages of using automated tech. Here, the business owners share their experiences – and how they expect it will impact their work in the future.

Hagen’s Organics: Automation accomplished – and more to come

Ruby Hagen is assistant director at Hagen's Organics in Melbourne. As Victoria faced stricter lockdown restrictions than the rest of Australia, online orders for food and produce soared. “Before the pandemic we were doing about 20 deliveries a day. At that point, it felt like a lot. But then COVID-19 hit. When we moved into Stage 4 restrictions our orders increased to about 300 [a day],” says Ruby.

Before COVID-19, Ruby was manually organising deliveries in an Excel spreadsheet. As it scaled up, the family business saw an opportunity – and the need – to improve the way it managed dispatching orders, mapping out delivery runs and communicating with customers. “We introduced a new system called CartonCloud,” Ruby explains, “which automates the schedule of our delivery runs and also does things like sending customers automated text messages when our delivery drivers are leaving the previous location.” 

The technology is saving Ruby and the team at least two hours each day. And now that she has some time up her sleeve, she is looking to streamline other processes with the help of tech. “One of the things we are working on with our POS and scale company is for our packers to work from iPads so they can scan products directly as they go, rather than working from a paper sheet.” Ruby hopes to not only save the team more time, but also to eliminate unnecessary paper waste.

Pet Express Transport Services (PETS): Planning for automation

Taimur Cheema is the director of PETS, a pet transportation business based in Sydney and Melbourne. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and lack of air travel, business came to a halt and unfortunately its team got smaller. Taimur saw this pause as a time to revamp outdated processes and implement tech that could take on some of the heavy lifting. “We’re looking at automating our calling system and also working with airlines to automate our booking systems,” says Taimur. “We want to develop a customer portal that will help improve customers’ experiences with our service, and we want to create a better system for our drivers.”

At the moment, the PETS system is entirely manual, but Taimur recognises things need to change if they want to scale up. “It was always in the back of my mind to create [an automated system], but because we've been so busy working in the business, we haven't really had time to sit down and work on it.” Taimur hopes that using this time wisely can set PETS up for a smoother future. “It will help to cut down hundreds of man hours on a monthly basis,” adds Taimur.

PETS has developed a two-part approach for the adoption process to make the transition as smooth as possible. “We have divided implementation into multiple phases,” says Taimur. In the first phase they will automate and improve their internal systems, then they will look to integrate with quarantine and customs departments’ systems when domestic and international travel picks back up.

Adopting automated tech in your business

When it comes to implementing automation, Ruby suggests asking an expert or another business you know is getting it right. “We were using a third-party delivery company who do what we're doing on a higher scale, and for a lot of other companies,” she explains. “I decided to call them to see how they manage it. They told me about CartonCloud, so we adopted it a couple of weeks later.”

Taimur also sought expertise from multiple sources. “We’ve been talking to the airlines, the quarantine department, the customs department, and also a few software developers,” he says.

It’s important to consider how automation can fit into your business holistically. Start by reviewing your existing software and identifying whether you can integrate new systems with what you already have. Ideally, your various systems – whether that includes ordering, accounting, booking, delivery or more – can all work together harmoniously.

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