Standardisation, Optimisation and Automation

Redefining Automation: Prioritizing Standardization and Optimization


As businesses strive for peak efficiency and leaner processes, the integration of Lean Six Sigma principles into automation strategies emerges as a transformative approach. This decisive fusion empowers organisations to surpass conventional performance benchmarks, streamline workflows, and propel productivity to unprecedented heights. Through the meticulous standardization and relentless optimization prescribed by Lean Six Sigma, companies unlock a potent synergy, catapulting their operations into a new era of precision and efficacy. Let's delve into how this robust methodology can be the linchpin in crafting a future where efficiency and quality reign supreme.

In the wake of the digital transformation era, businesses are often lured by the siren call of automation, a cornerstone of the modern industrial revolution. Yet, in their hurry to harness the power of algorithms and machine learning, many companies overlook a critical step—standardizing and optimizing the processes automation will inevitably replace.

The allure of immediate efficiency and reduced human error often blinds decision-makers to the shortcomings they’re about to cement into their system. Here, we argue that the race to automate should not preclude the crucial foundational work of standardization and optimization. By bypassing these steps, companies risk building inflexible and inefficient systems that are far from the panacea they initially appeared to be.

Standardisation before Automation

Standardization as a Foundation


Standardization is the bedrock upon which successful automation is built. It entails the establishment of clear, consistent, and repeatable processes that form the fabric of a company’s operations. When standardization precedes the automation process, companies set the stage for a seamless transition from human to machine implementation. It homogenizes the workflow, aligning disparate parts of the business towards a common, efficient goal.

Standardizing also fosters a culture of quality. Employees working within standardized frameworks are more likely to produce consistent and reliable results, achieving higher performance and customer satisfaction. In an era where customer expectations are continually evolving, a standardized approach is essential for delivering a reliable and consistently high quality product or service.

Optimization for Efficiency


If standardization is the bedrock, optimization is the mortar that cements the bricks together. Once processes are standardized, the task is to enhance them—making them more efficient and effective. This involves the elimination of unnecessary steps, the rerouting of workflows to reduce bottlenecks, and the introduction of control mechanisms to maintain high standards.

Optimization is a continual process. As businesses grow and evolve, so too must their processes. Any definition of ‘efficient’ will only be momentary, as ongoing optimization is required to adapt to changes in market conditions, technology, and consumer preferences. By prioritizing this step, companies ensure that their automated systems are not only efficient for the day of their launch but remain so in the face of inevitable change.

Challenges of Automating Non-Standard Processes


The perils of automating non-standard processes are numerous. When automated systems are built on top of poorly defined or inefficient processes, the result can be equally inefficient or even more so. Automation has the insidious ability to magnify the shortcomings endemic in the processes it is designed to expedite. It’s akin to driving a car with a misaligned chassis—automation only accelerates your path to inefficiency.

Beyond immediate operational effects, non-standard automation has long-term consequences. Future modifications and scale-ups become cumbersome and expensive endeavours. What began as an initiative to cut costs often spirals into a money pit as the enterprise scrambles to patch and maintain its rigid, poorly automated structures.

Case Studies or Examples


The principle of prioritizing standardization and optimization is not a mere abstraction; it’s reflected in the success (or failure) of many enterprises. A common paragon is the automotive industry, where the adoption of lean manufacturing has yielded steady improvements in quality and efficiency. Automobile giants have not just paved the way for automation by systematically eliminating waste through standardisation and optimisation but have demonstrated how to wield it effectively.

Conversely, there are innumerable instances where companies have rushed into automation without standardizing and optimizing their processes. Bill Gates, of Microsoft fame, has famously asserted, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” His words are a stark reminder of the risks involved in automating unpolished processes.



In the tumultuous sea of technology, the beacon of standardization and optimization should not be lost. It is the compass that guides us away from the rocky shores of inefficient automation. While the allure of immediate efficiency is strong, the long-term benefits of a strategic and patient approach to the automation process cannot be overstated.

Each step in the digital transformation should be taken with care. Standardization and optimization are the crucial preparatory steps that ensure automation is a tool that augments the human workforce, rather than a blunt instrument that undermines it. For businesses poised to take the automation plunge, the real work begins not with the coding or machine learning algorithms but in the workshops where standardization and optimization are painstakingly crafted. It is only with these firmly in place that the automation ship can sail to its full potential.

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Reagan Pannell

Reagan Pannell

Reagan Pannell is a highly accomplished professional with 15 years of experience in building lean management programs for corporate companies. With his expertise in strategy execution, he has established himself as a trusted advisor for numerous organisations seeking to improve their operational efficiency.

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