Lean And The Age Of AI And Robotics

The advent of technology has developed in such a powerful way that nothing could remain the same. The beginning of the XXI century completely changed the way we perceive work, so much that it’s almost impossible to imagine a workplace without some type of AI. The global market has also undergone radical changes in the past few decades; this has also significantly contributed to the rise of AI and robotics in Lean management implementation.

The Connection Between Lean Management and Technology

With the development of the Internet and machine technology, work has changed in such a way that it’s now very hard to keep track with it. Innovations and breakthroughs occur on a daily basis, and every good company should do its best to make good use of this. By implementing AI into the work process, your company can profit in numerous ways. You will be able to:

  • track the work process down to the last detail
  • recognize the weak spots and bad links within the company
  • optimize the operational process according to the workload
  • conduct an efficient assessment on a regular basis
  • make accurate predictions

Over the past several decades, some companies were slow on implementing technology in Lean management, and they’ve all suffered considerably because of it. By failing to do this efficiently, these companies gambled with their future in the market. In today’s world, it is crucial not to make this mistake.

The Benefits of Using AI and Robotics in Lean Management 

There are numerous benefits of implementing AI and robotics in Lean management of your work process:

  • Lower cost of work. It actually costs less than paying employees, especially in the long run; it can be more reliable, more efficient and more productive.
  • Independence. It doesn’t depend on the majority of external factors, which means an increase in the overall productivity. It is practically not affected by distractions, work fatigue, or drop in standardized production values.
  • De-stressed employees. If the majority of the work process is automated, workers have more time to spend on creative tasks; they also don’t have to worry about every single detail, which means they can focus on the “big picture”.
  • High precision and accuracy. There is no fear of error-making, since everything is automated and worked out down to the core level. For example, robots are much more effective at detecting than humans, and software is much more reliable when it comes to data assessment or data storage.
  • Increased employee safety. The risk of work injury is much lower due to the automated aspects of the work process. Once programmed, AI can commit virtually no errors; thus, it makes the workplace much safer for the employees.

What Does a Company Need in Order to Implement AI and Robotics?

The most important thing a company needs is skilled workforce. With the advent of modern technologies, the entire work process has altered – and the need for old-time employees is gone. Nowadays workers need to possess a different mindset and a modern skillset; otherwise, they won’t be able to adjust to the requirements of the modern-age technology.

For example, there will be less and less need for repetitive human work; instead, humans will need to expand their knowledge in terms of machine-control and process management. This doesn’t mean that the importance of human labor will be diminished – just the contrary. The only difference will be in the roles human workforce assumes. Humans will have to learn more technical skills, but there will be a greater need for those who haven’t been able to contribute enough in the past (e.g. people with disabilities).

A company also needs a solid business plan. Without a detailed plan, the implementation process might not go as planned. This is why it’s important to invest enough time into the preparation for the implementation process.

What Are Some Examples of AI/Robot Implementation in Lean Management?

Telecommuting

This is one of the most well-known examples of integrating technology into the work process. Since there is no need for employees to be physically present at the place of work, they can complete their tasks using mobile communications, such as phones or laptop/desktop computers.

Industrial Robots

By being programmed, automated and independent, industrial robots can accomplish their tasks with much more efficiency and accuracy than humans. Industrial robots significantly speed up the work process, which is reflected in a company’s economic impact.

Machine-Learning Platform

This type of technology is widely used in various industries, and its main advantage is a significant contribution to prediction, classification, and assessment. Thus, a computer system gradually develops while “learning”. As a direct result of this, work performance on a specific task grows exponentially.

Decision Management

Decision management has a goal of automating a company’s decision-making system as much as possible, through the use predictive analytics and similar software solutions. As a result of this, the cost of decision-making within a company drops significantly, whereas the overall efficiency grows.

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Common Mistakes In The Service Sector And How You Can Solve Them

Along with the advancement of new technologies, customers are becoming more sophisticated, more informed and self-reliant. This puts an additional strain on the companies involved in the service industry as it requires them to become sharper and more effective. Any mistakes and inefficiencies can eventually affect customer satisfaction. The good news is that mistakes can be corrected. See if you’re making any of these and what you can do about them.

Mistake 1: Cutting Costs by Offshoring

In this day and age, many companies choose to offshore a portion of the work that they perform, such as customer service, as a means of reducing costs. While in certain cases offshoring can be an extremely effective way of acquiring talent that would otherwise not be available, doing it solely for the purpose of cutting costs can actually hurt your business.

Offshoring often creates disconnection both within the team and in the business-customer relationship. When customers reach out to the companies, they expect a certain kind of service and may be disappointed if what they receive if not what they were looking for.

Solution: Optimizing Existing Employee Productivity

Since the main argument for offshoring is cutting costs, the same can be achieved by training employees how to optimize their productivity and “eliminate the waste” in their work process. Some of the ways in which it can be done are the following:

  • Teaching how to manage time more efficiently
  • Instructing how to set goals and plan in advance
  • Teaching how to prioritize tasks
  • Discovering additional skills and talents that employees have and offering ways to use them in the workplace
  • Providing clean and comfortable working environment that motivates the employees

Mistake 2: Following Outdated Business Processes

When performing different business processes either with your team or by yourself, you follow a set of steps that makes a task easier and more efficient. Frequently, those used by the company are considered to be set in stone and are rarely if ever changed. Given that everything around us constantly changes and evolves, business processes may become outdated. This may not only decrease the quality of service and make your customers trust you less, but can also demotivate the employees.

Here are some signs that indicate that you may need to update your existing business processes:

  • Dissatisfied customers
  • Increase in negative feedback or reviews from customers
  • Demotivated colleagues and/or employees
  • Missed deadlines
  • Increased expenses

Solution: Regularly Redesigning business Processes

In order to avoid or solve this mistake, business processes need to be continuously revised and updated. And that should be done with the help and input of the employees, because they are the ones who know what and why does not work as intended.

In order to streamline business processes, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Create a schematic of your current process.
  2. Identify the existing weak links. In order to do so you can pay attention to your customers’ feedback. What frustrated or dissatisfies them? What do they complain about? Don’t forget to also pay attention to your colleagues, subordinates, and employees. What frustrates and deflates them? What take them too much time to complete and causes them to miss their deadlines? What requires additional funding?
  3. Redesign your existing processes to eliminate the weak links. Make sure you find a way of involving your team in the process as they may have unique ideas of how these problems can be approached.
  4. Take the actions necessary to implement the changes. Take into consideration the potential expenses that may be required, e.g., additional software or other resources.
  5. Monitor the changes implemented and whether they have brought the desired result.

Keep in mind that changes won’t always equal to immediately improved results. Sometimes, you may be required to adjust the process multiple times. That is not only normal, but natural.

Mistake 3: Lack of People Skills

Some of the greatest mistakes that are made in the service sector are often caused by lack of people skills such as the ability to listen and deal with conflicts and criticism. Because of this, those directly working with customers may not listen to them properly, argue with them, and leave customers feeling like they are being treated like numbers rather than people.

Most standard workplace trainings cover the technicalities of the job, familiarize workers with company policies and standards. However, very rarely they cover essential skills.

Solution: Training Staff for Intrapersonal Skills

Some of the most required interpersonal skills in the service sector are:

  1. Active listening: paying attention to what someone else is saying and responding accordingly
  2. Empathy: understanding how someone feels and being able to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes”
  3. Criticism: how to offer constructive criticism without offending and how to receive constructive criticism without taking offense
  4. Disagreeing: how to respectfully disagree during an argument
  5. Communication: the ability to correctly convey ideas verbally and non-verbally
  6. Negotiation: coming to an agreement with someone who has a conflicting opinion
  7. Problem-solving: effectively solving personal and team problems
  8. Teamwork: ability to effectively complete tasks as a part of a team

These are not only effective in improving employee-customer relationships, but also those between employees, both of which are important for any business involved in the service industry.
There are multiple ways in which interpersonal skills can be improved, such as taking an online class, attending an interpersonal skills class, or hiring a consultant.

Are you making any of these mistakes? What are your approaches to solving them? Don’t hesitate to share your opinion with us.

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