Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bad System Automated

This doesn't quite fit the axiom of "don't automate a bad procedure" but it's close. A company in the UK recently sent out 1,300 "pink slips" by email. Only one person was supposed to get it.

If a procedure has flaws or potential for mistakes, certainly do not automate it. You'll just get the flaws and mistakes faster or more extensively. Too many times I've seen companies who failed to take advantage of a new system or the chance to automate a procedure that was once done by paper or "paper-like". Instead of asking how they can streamline the process, or take ambiguity out of it, or eliminate the problems that occurred with the current procedure, they simply ask the programmer to give them a computer version of what they have now.

I saw this once with automating an order evaluation process. The order was taken and needed to be routed to be evaluated for material availability and engineering specification review. With the old procedure, procurement got the order first. Then engineering reviewed it and often changed the Bill-of-Material which meant that procurement needed to see it again. Instead of mimicking these old redundant steps, we changed the procedure so that procurement didn't see the order until after engineering was done and the BOM was complete and accurate.

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