Office automation is a critical part of daily activity which is used to simplify group collaboration in an organization. Most of the routine activities are automated. The classic example is computerisation , the impact being that human work is replaced by machines. In today’s globalised world, automation is inevitable. A crisp definition of automation is collecting, storing and sharing of data or information in an organization in the routine business operations. This is facilitated by innumerable softwares with various tools developed by companies .
With latest communication systems, in vogue these tools are of immense help for group collaboration. All these automations are to cater to the need for simplifying work thus saving time. The earliest automation in the world could be the typewriter and its various advanced models later on. Let us now look into the different types of automations being used in organizations , right from recruiting personnel . Softwares for HR department, Automation for Marketing network team work, Sales personnel , Supply mechanisms, billing and banking.
There are also advanced professional automation softwares for organizing information, processing, interactions, Resource scheduling, project management and so on. The types differ according to the nature of business. Let us now take the example of a unit manufacturing machineries, employing around 30 workers The unit had initially one automation for accounting . All the other departments worked with labour force. While expansion took place, it became necessary for further automation of systems. This was partly due to scarcity and cost of labour 2
But the major force which led to adoption of automation was that most of the other players did so. The various rating agencies gave high credit to organizations with automation. Getting rated became necessary in due course for getting banking facilities. The tough competition in the market and for export opportunities, the unit had to take drastic steps and changes inside the unit. One automation system Enterprse Resource Planning was introduced. This ,in short attempts to integrate several data sources and processes in an organization into a unified system.
There is a common database and a modular software design where all departments can work real time. This system saves time and helps work faster , accurate and efficiently . This being so, implementation was quite an expensive one. Added to this was the resistance from employees as they had to change their work culture. The HR had to resort to counseling and motivation for this. As Mica R Endsley states That the acceptance or resistance to new changes in the organization tells upon the success of advanced technologies in achieving the organisation’s objectives.
The other aspects during implementation were process preparation, customization, Data transfer and getting maintenance support . The system was beneficial in that what 5 persons would do could be done by just engaging 1 person. The engineers could design, plan and execute easily The purchase could plan materials just in time. The company after initial disruptions, started full utilization. The best advantage went to the production department. They could get raw materials , plan sheet in time. Delivery commitments were met . This could be attributed to motivation . Their work as simplified. They could work towards a goal. As Clifford T Morgan puts in , the drive theory had worked . The implementation of automation has helped them positively.
They had wanted to learn the new system The problem started when the company’s activities changed. Requirements started to diversify. Since customisation in this is limited, professional help was needed every time which involved great expenditure. The system was found too complex compared to the real time necessity. Over and above all, the expenses for training officials in the field was costly and time aking. It was found that money spent on automation and implementation was far more than money saved on labour . Since there was no room for human intervention in the system for any necessary corrections, it became an ordeal using it. This aspect is illustrated by M L Blum where he states that there would be a dissatisfaction by simply looking at specific situations instead of developing a broad base of knowedge about human performance. Probably the automation developer would be motivated and satisfied to rework on it Not the user.
The best solution for a good automation is to restrict it to certain fields . Not always human work can be replaced. Certainly automation can be adopted where heavy human work is involved like lifting ,where machines could be used. Payrolls prepared, accounting done , inventory maintained.. But the grey areas are where changes are involved in minute human skills. The HR department is one such. An automation cannot be relied upon for appointing a person. Applications may be processed by automation but selection has to be done by a human only.