The greatest asset in any business is its people. The knowledge, heart, and skill they bring to the table are irreplaceable. Yet some people feel that our inability to substitute for those human elements is reason not to substitute for other things that a worker can do. This is misguided thinking.

The most obvious example of this is automation. When manufacturing began to create new ways to mechanize tasks on the assembly line, there was a great outcry about the jobs that would be lost. What was missed with that conclusion was that there would still be humans to build and maintain the machines and that there were always plenty of jobs that a human would have to do.

And more importantly, automation allows humans to be used where their strengths are greatest and most irreplaceable. The menial tasks in any workplace that used to require the commitment of many man-hours of labor can now be handled by automated systems that free up human workers for more skilled tasks.

So the case in favor of increased automation is strong, and with the new ways that the workplace can be improved with further automation, businesses stand to be more efficient than ever. Here is how it’s happening.

White Collar Automation

We don’t know how soon we will see nonhuman administrative assistants or robotic custodians. But the office side is already seeing lots of other ways that the more tedious and time-wasting tasks can be handled by technology.

Kore allows workers to automate functions in their communications, scheduling, and workload management with the use of enterprise bots. These solution bots can be set to do certain things automatically, allowing the worker to keep his or her eyes away from the phone for much longer each day. The bots can reply to emails, manage scheduling, and monitor sales leads, all in a more efficient way than a human worker can. And perhaps more importantly, they can do these tasks without creating a constant stream of interruptions to workers who are meeting with clients or carrying out other important duties.

In an overall plan for workplace efficiency, managers can not overlook the option of cutting down the workload of communications and planning, and bots can be part of the plan to do so.

Administrative Automation

One area where automation has been around longest is the management of worker hours. The use of time cards is largely nonexistent today, with most workers logging in with some electronic method, usually magnetic cards.

Yet even this system has been improving. Many workplaces weren’t satisfied with replacing a long line at the punch clock with a long line at the card reader, so the emphasis has shifted toward ever-faster check-in and check-out. Facial recognition, fingerprint scans, and other physical identifiers have been used in some workplaces to speed check-in.

There have also been improvements in monitoring of mobile employees. GPS software has been tied into payroll so that the system recognizes when people who are supposed to be on the move actually are on the move. It increases accountability without increasing workload for other employees.

Inventory Automation

We’ve been electronically tracking stores of raw materials and completed goods for many years now, but that has always been accompanied by the nonstop flow of pallet jacks and forklifts as warehouse personnel scurried about to unload incoming trucks, fill orders, and rotate stock.

Some steps in that process can now be automated. Because order fulfillment is the most tedious, we have seen developments in that area first. The process of a single worker taking a printout and walking from one shelf to another, picking up a single item here and a single item there, is very inefficient. Many warehouses now have robots to handle these monotonous tasks. They can be instructed on what items to pick and then zip quickly to the correct location, retrieve the item, and complete the task, all without a human hitting the warehouse floor.

Automation is no longer seen as the enemy of the worker but rather the friend. It is helping the humans in a company to avoid needless burdens and tedious tasks, making their employers more profitable, to the benefit of all.

By Kar

Dr. Kar works in the interface of digital transformation and data science. Professionally a professor in one of the top B-Schools of Asia and an alumni of XLRI, he has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in reputed institutes. He is a regular contributor of Business Fundas and a frequent author in research platforms. He is widely cited as a researcher. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.