How is RPA turning into a highly sought-after technology
Robotic Process Automation or RPA is one of the fastest-growing segments in the global enterprise software category. Research analyst Gartner says that the market growth rate of RPA was a whopping 63% in 2019. With more enterprises using this innovative technology, RPA’s market value is set to reach 3 billion USD by 2022, shows a prediction by Statista. Early adopters of the RPA software are already raking in benefits as RPA streamlines workflows, automates tasks and allows human workers to focus on high-value work. RPA software appeals to organizations across the world due to its quick deployment cycle time.
How RPA helps businesses: A quick recap
Robotic Process Automation or RPA refers to software programs or ‘bots’ that are programmed to mimic human actions. An average back-office employee has to carry out lots of repetitive, time-consuming and dreary tasks such as producing reports, filling out forms, updating records and other high-volume transactions that do not require judgment or reasoning. RPA simply offers an easy way to perform these tasks more accurately and quickly.
Since RPA does not require any specialized coding knowledge, businesses have welcomed RPA into their processes with open arms. Let’s now have a look at some jaw-dropping statistics and facts about RPA.
Related Reading: How Robotic Process Automation Is Revolutionizing Industries?
Jaw-dropping statistics and facts about RPA
The statistics behind the widespread use of this technology can provide us valuable insights into how RPA is impacting the world.
- According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), organizations that implement RPA can reduce costs from 35-65% for onshore process operations and 10-30% in offshore delivery.
- McKinsey and Co. suggest that around 45% of the tasks in a business can be automated.
- In their Annual Global RPA survey, Deloitte found that 53% of the survey respondents had already started their RPA journey. Deloitte predicts that we would witness the worldwide adoption of RPA within the next two years.
- Among those surveyed, the ROI was reported at less than 12 months with an average of 20% full-time equivalent capacity provided by robots.
- The Deloitte RPA survey respondents also reported an improvement in compliance (92%), quality/accuracy(90%), productivity(86%) and a reduction in costs(59%).
- The Institute for Robotic Process Automation claims that RPA software robots cost about one-third of the price of an off-shore employee and one-fifth of the price of an onshore worker.
These compelling figures help us to see how RPA is adding value to organizations looking to operate with maximum efficiency.
- RPA cannot replace humans: One of the biggest misconceptions about RPA is that it will eat up human jobs. RPA works alongside humans to make their lives easier. RPA software carries out jobs that are repetitive and mundane. This can enable us to focus on fruitful endeavors thus improving efficiency.
- RPA will change the nature of outsourcing: RPA has disrupted the outsourcing industry. The increased efficiency and usability that comes with RPA implementation, has threatened traditional BPO relationships. Since RPA can handle more transactions without making mistakes or taking breaks, traditional outsourcing relationships have declined over the last few years. However, if BPOs embrace the benefits of RPA or any other transformative technology they’ll continue to work.
- RPA software implementation is complex: It’s true that RPA has delivered huge benefits to its users. However, many users have also found that the implementation of RPA was quite challenging. Selecting the wrong RPA is one reason that can cause the RPA project to become more complicated than it actually should. If your company doesn’t have an interconnected system that updates cloud or on-premise infrastructure, then RPA implementation can be a big challenge.
- RPA cannot improve a flawed business process: RPA automates processes but does not improve any defects in the existing processes. Due to the hype surrounding RPA, organizations view it as a solution to all their woes. While RPA does help to streamline and modernize processes that are well established, it does nothing to improve a flawed process. So before automating, it’s better to have a clearly defined business process.
- RPA cannot be used to automate all kinds of processes: RPA can be used where high volumes of repetitive transactions based on business rules are carried out. For eg: banking and financial services, insurance, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, travel, logistics, etc. However, if the processes involve reasoning, making decisions, taking different actions according to scenarios, then those processes will not be able to enjoy the full benefits of business automation.
- Future of RPA: RPA has advanced considerably and is the future of IT automation. RPA will be increasingly adopted in various industries such as manufacturing, oil, and gas, retail, etc. Humans will no longer perform data entry and data rekeying jobs. All such jobs would be automated. RPA would evolve to SPA (Smart Process Automation) making business processes smarter. By integrating emerging technologies such as machine learning, AI, big data, with RPA enterprises can promote new levels of productivity and efficiency.
Organizations need not scrap their legacy systems while implementing RPA. The ability of RPA software to integrate legacy systems has helped organizations to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives. They have also unlocked the value associated with past technological investments. As businesses look for new solutions to increase gains, RPA will continue to develop and gain relevance.
Related Reading: How Can Businesses Overcome The Barriers To RPA Adoption?
Have you implemented RPA in your organization? Do you have any insights to share? Do let us know!
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The quest for improved productivity and efficiency in a highly competitive world has landed many enterprises at the altar of automation. A global survey by the Grant Thornton International Business Report reveals about 56% of firms are either automating processes or plan to do so over the next 12 months.
However, businesses caught up in the hype of emerging technologies seldom realize that for all the benefits of automation, it is a double-edged sword, which has the potential to inflict serious damage to the vitality of the enterprise.
Automation Improves Accuracy and Speed with Reduced Costs
Automation brings to the table a load of benefits, and among the most obvious and direct benefits are improved accuracy and speed, with reduced costs.
Manual processing of tasks is prone to errors, regardless of how dedicated the person entering the data, and how rigorous the cross-checks. Moreover, manual updating of records, data entry, or process is both time-consuming and resource intensive. What takes days of painstaking effort may be executed in a matter of seconds, by leveraging automated technologies.
Likewise, automated operations, with synchronized operations, and turning switches on and off at the right time, improves efficiency, eliminating wastage.Automated robots work 24×7 at factories, without taking a break, and automated agricultural operations increase crop yield, improving productivity and Returns on capital investment manifold.
Automation also brings in consistency to processes, and increase predictability. With automated system and processes, the outcome both in terms of time and results may be predicted with a high level of accuracy.
Automation enables implementing the seven lean principles of eliminating overproduction, reducing waiting, prompt transportation, avoiding unnecessary processing, eliminating unnecessary inventory, doing away with excess motion, and eradicating defects, with gusto.
Automation Improves Safety
Automation eliminates the risks associated with several hazardous jobs, from handling molten lead to operating shredders, and preempts employees from being infected with ergonomically related disorders through monotonous data entry, injuries due to lifting heavy weights, and so on.
Automation Offers Macro Level Benefits
Automation removes the kinks in the production and operations process, leading to a high level of efficiency and better products. At a macro level, such improved efficiency leads to reduced costs and lower prices which boost demand, both factors improving the now all-sacrosanct bottom-line.
A spin-off benefit is, gains to the environment. The highly efficient operation of heating and cooling systems, brought on by automation, reduce energy. Likewise, automated robots used in mining reduce waste and conserve the environment.
However, often overlooked are indirect benefits of automation, which may be just as profound. Automation spares employees from drudgery and allows them to focus on meaningful tasks. Such work enrichment plays no small part in giving employees a psychological boost and can contribute to employee retention in a big way.
Automation and the Job Loss Quandary
For all the benefits, automation poses certain challenges as well.
One of the biggest benefits and a major reason why companies opt for automation is to reduce their wage bills, which often constitutes a sizable chunk of their operations expenses, to the point of making operations unviable. In fact, it is the wage bill that sounded the death knell of many industries in the US and other developing economies, shifting business to China and other developing countries. Automation is widely seen as an effective tool for competitive advantage, to overcome the challenge posed by low-wage economies.
Automation does lead to a reduction in workforce and reduced wage bills. About 43% of businesses expect automation to lead to job losses. About one in every three companies in the manufacturing, technology, clean tech, and food & beverages sectors expect automation to replace at least 5% of their workforce.
However, enterprises salivating on the prospects of a substantial reduction in their wages bill, as automation takes over manual tasks, may have to hold on to their celebrations. Automation takes away manual tasks, but brings in additional complications, such as the need to monitor and maintain the automated system, with adherence to Quality Assurance (QA) process. In essence, it may replace several low-end jobs with a few high-end jobs. Only large enterprises can be assured of a reduced wage bill. For small and medium enterprises, automation reducing their wage bills depends on the scale and nature of operations, and in the worst-case scenario, automation may actually end up inflating the wages bill!
Automation induced job losses can cause macro-level disruptions as well. In Stephen Hawking’s words, automation can “decimate the middle-class jobs” and displace the working class. Apart from the remaining employees being psychologically unmotivated, such a trend can result in the enterprises finding it difficult to get talent, and having to spend more resources and effort than necessary of its human resource and strafing functions.
Automation May End up Being Costlier!
From a financial perspective, deploying automated systems requires significant capital investment. A situation may well arise when the cost to implement and maintain the automated systems exceeds the manual costs, making automation financially non-viable. There are also unpredictable costs related to maintenance, and repair, and also predictable but indirect costs related to supervision and training that make automation financially dangerous for an enterprise.
Also, automation depends on having a highly matured technology infrastructure as its backbone. Without reliable ultra-fast backbone and equally dedicated supply of energy, automation will fall flat on its face and become counter-productive. Many companies assume this as given, when the reality may be different, or at least much costlier than anticipated, even in first world economies.
Automation is Not Yet Compatible with Customization
A more significant challenge is the loss of versatility or flexibility. No machinery is as flexible as the human body, and no artificial intelligence can supplant the human brain. An employee can perform a flexible variety of tasks, whereas a machine is limited to what it has been programmed to do. Automation basically entails repeating the same process over and over again and requires standardization. One off customizations, to cater to any special situations or exigencies, or even approaching each customer in a special way, is an anathema to process or operational automation.
The latest developments in 3D printing may provide a breakthrough in applying automation in a customized way, but it is still early days, and there is a long way to go before viable models emerge and mature.
Unless automation is implemented without a thorough understanding of the business process, or customer preferences, it can make things pretty annoying for the customer. Consider the case of an automated customer service helpline, where the customer has to spend minutes selecting one option after another, and in the end, be cut off because he made a wrong choice somewhere and now cannot find the option he wants.
Also, automation works well in a perfect world, but in a practical world, where there may be a need for compromises, automated systems may fall flat on its face. For instance, a strike or a hold up may disrupt the supply chain, throwing the entire synchronized system in disarray.
Each wave of automation has come with fresh benefits. The first wave of automation, heralded by the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century and made production robust. The second wave of automation in the 20th century boosted production capabilities and speeded up things. The latest wave of digitally inspired automation, powered by IoT and related technologies, promises intelligent insights which have the capability to overcome, almost all these existing drawbacks or challenges.
The trick is to get the implementation right. It requires effective teamwork, bringing together all stakeholders. A partner who knows his trade is essential to develop cutting edge and seamless solutions that leverage the benefits of automation and customize it for the enterprise.
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Augmented Reality is a hot emerging technology that modifies a real-world plain-sight view by superimposing a real-time computer-generated sensory image, sound, video, GPS data, or graphics, in a semantic context. Through such superimposition, Augmented Reality offers a composite view of the environment and an enhanced perception of reality.
Augmented Reality is riding high on a wave of expectations, and many experts tip the technology to transform many walks of life, including the workspace, like never before. Augmented Reality blurs the line between the physical and digital realms. It brings computer-generated graphics to life, making what the employee actually sees interactive and manipulative. The potential applications are endless, limited only by imagination.
Better Management of Work
Augmented Reality tool such as HoloLens allows supervisors and managers to remain in better control of the situation, as they are fed with real-time information in the actual context. Instead of taking time out to analyze the situation in a computer or smartphone, they gain real-time insights in the course of their work. They can also make changes and issue instructions using hand or head movements, and voice commands.
Augmented Reality enables trial-and-error, without the usual costs and time associated with the process. An interior designer, could, for instance, use an AR headset to test color schemes, or a jewelry designer could visualize an idea and share it with the customer, before committing to make it. An architect designing a new office could view a real size hologram from all angles, to optimize the settings. A salesman could share his product line with clients in 3D.
Using AR powered glasses could offer field technicians insight into the working of machinery, annotating the parts, making explicit fluid and other levels not easily discernable, identifying parts which have failed or not working to the set parameters, and more. Overlaid animations would guide the technician on what to do next. What hitherto took specialists with considerable years of experience and training could easily be handled by a novice technician.
Lockheed Martin is already applying such technology to good effect, employing AR to aid design and make production floor personnel familiar with procedures. DHL is using similar AR technology to make sure employees load carts in the most efficient way possible.
Improved Productivity and Efficiency
Augmented Reality delivers optimal and accurate information, in the ideal format, at the precise time, to increase efficiency and productivity manifold. While conventional technology may bring in all details about a customer who walks in at the computer console, AR technologies bring it in front of the worker’s eyeballs. Workers no longer need to stop what they are doing to seek the required information or worry whether the information they gathered is accurate. Gestures and voice replace the inconvenient keyboard, mouse clicks or swipes.
Moreover, the field of view information offered by AR may change dynamically along with the task being performed. For instance, a worker in the warehouse may be guided to the area where a requested item is stored. In a factory, it could notify workers of resource levels or problems on the assembly line on the fly. Conservative estimates peg a 32% efficiency increase when deploying AR.
AR transforms training, taking it to a whole new level. It enables enterprises to speed up the training process and make it more effective.
Google Expeditions, a virtual reality platform, offers an AR overlay, already allow students to take guided tours deep into the Amazon jungle, or watch a Viennese opera. Implementing similar tools in the workplace would allow trainees to learn the basics and delve into the advanced, in double quick time, with a real feel of things. New hires could be placed in a real-world situation, and be exposed to all possible scenarios, without the disruption and risks characteristically associated with on-the-job training. Augmate’s InstructAR platform is an early step in this direction, aimed at imparting tech and manufacturing training using AR.
Hyper-training with augmented reality facilitates shorter learning curves, better-trained employees, and an all-around more efficient workplace. Boeing trainees assemble a mock airplane 30% faster and 90% more accurately using AR-animated instructions, compared to relying on PDF guides.
Furthers Organizational Creativity
Augmented Reality opens the doors for limitless creativity and innovation in the workplace. AR tools may be used to simulate different cause-effect scenarios, to determine an optimal course of action, without having to go through the underlying risks. In an ultra-fast business world brimming with change, such options help business drive much-needed agility and adaptability.
The potential of Augmented Reality to drive innovation is unlimited, especially when blended with employee collaboration, field tests, and presentations. AR can immerse a remote team, bringing employees together from across the globe in a way that feels more real than ever before, boosting collaboration at a global scale.
Augmented Reality also helps enterprises devise innovative ways to effectively deal with contingency scenarios, such as how best to tackle hazardous workplace conditions, how to plan for a contingency such as a live wire falling to the ground in the construction industry, guiding the workforce on protocols in the eventuality of emergencies such as a fire, and much more. AR can take the remote workforce further than existing tools can.
Deepen the Engagement
Marketers leverage AR in many innovative ways, from embedding a product brochure with personalized messages to offering a snap preview of a new location, and more. Blippar, a New York-based advertising company has taken the lead in offering augmented reality games with everyday objects, offering ample scope to deepen customer engagement. One innovative Pepsi ad allows users to aim a ball to a goalpost with their eyes, and “kick” it with a quick gesture. The rich data collected on customer habits and behaviors are spin-off benefits.
While AR technology has been in existence for some time now, growth has been sluggish over the years, mainly owing to the limitations in enabling technology. The popularity and easy availability of wearable devices have however changed the scenario, and AR is all set to go mainstream in the near future.
Augmented Reality is all set to enter the boom phase. IDC estimates shipping 99.4 million Augmented Reality headsets by 2021, a tenfold increase from the 10.1 million shipped in 2015, indicating a compound annual growth rate of 58%.
As the adage goes the early bird catches the worm. Your business will surely be better off by introducing Augmented Reality technologies for both internal and external facets of operations. When you partner with us, you can leverage our highly skilled, talented, and experienced team to develop state of the art, cutting edge AR solutions. Get a free consultation.
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Inspections are an inevitable part of life in enterprises for quality checks and compliance purposes. Such inspections, though unavoidable divert resources and distract focus from the core business activity, as such, is seen as a drag on resources.
However, a smooth and streamlined inspection workflow, integrated to core business processes can minimize the disruption and actually leverage the inspection process for the benefit of the enterprise.
Here are five ways to streamline inspection workflows for the New Year
1. Have Clarity of Purpose
Have clarity of purpose, and understand the exact deliverable required out of the inspection workflow. For instance, if the inspection is carried out as part of legal compliance, make sure the workflow captures all the required information necessary to populate the reports, and the process flow complies with the requirements of the regulations. If the objective is adherence to quality standards, keep the end in mind, and plan on how the workflow will track the required statistics.
Big is not always beautiful. Resist the temptation to introduce wholesale or big changes, just for the sake of it. More often than not, small incremental tweaks made at the right place can deliver huge improvements.
2. Treat Documentation Seriously
Strange as it sounds, at times even the best-oiled enterprise may overlook the obvious. Documenting or defining processes is one such instance of the often overlooked obvious. Documenting the inspection workflow lends clarity and order to the process. It also makes explicit complex, convoluted, or roundabout processes that can be eliminated or bypassed.
While there is a need to make the documentation as exhaustive or thorough as possible, to capture all processes, there is also a need to keep it simple. Infusing the documentation with illustration and flow charts serves the purpose, and makes it doubly easy to identify complexities, and make amends.
Break down the process into discrete steps, with more granular the process the better. Also, rank each process in order of importance, giving priority to streamlining processes that actually matter, or are the most critical. Many processes are interdependent, and as such streamlining such processes may be best effected together with such interconnected process, for greater effectiveness.
3. Value Progress over Perfection
Many managers fall into the trap of perfection. No workflow is perfect, and even the best-laid plans falter in the face of practical exigencies. Aim for progress, or getting the work done in the fastest possible time, with minimal effort and resource, rather than artistic perfection. The caveat is to ensure no process mandated by regulatory or compliance requirement are skipped or bypassed in the quest for speed or efficiency.
In any case, contemporary business is extremely fluid, where workflows need to change rapidly, to cater to the evolving requirements. Trying to cope with the requirements of an ever-changing infrastructure with stagnant workflows and technologies would be like trying to compete in a drag race with a jalopy.
For greater effectiveness and accurate results, match the changes in business processes, brought about by technology, with changes in workflow inspection methodologies. A case in point: IoT may enable turning lighting systems on and off automatically, depending on the time of the day, sensors detecting movement of people, and other considerations, An inspection schedule that offers a checklist involving switching on and off the light at set times becomes counterproductive and disruptive.
4. Invest in Collaborative Workflows
The world is increasingly becoming collaborative. No initiative to streamline processes works without involving the key stakeholders in the mix. With regards to inspection workflows, the field staff, or employees who actually conduct the inspection would know better than anyone else how to improve the process, how to enhance it, and how to remove roadblocks. Such stakeholders may have suggestions for even trying something radically new to achieve the same thing.
Make the process collaborative, and involve the field staff to buy their support for the initiative. Failure to do so will invariably result in a disconnect, with the manager sitting in the cabin, looking at flowcharts and powerpoint presentations, deciding on what would make the process efficient, when the actual situation on the ground may be completely different.
5. Automate the Process
Many businesses, in fact about 70% to 80% of them, still use spreadsheets to manage their workflows. Spreadsheets offer convenience, but are error-prone, require lots of manual work, and can create serious versioning clashes. It makes sense to invest in modern field inspection software that automates the process, to improve accuracy, reduce manual entries, and speed up the process. Such inspection suites capture key information automatically, leveraging the camera, bar-code scanner and other features available in the smartphone, populate fields seeking duplicate or derived information automatically, auto generate reports, and issue automated alerts as required. Intuitive workflow inspection software makes it easy to change workflows as required by simple drag-and-drop mouse clicks, to meet the exigencies of the situation, or to reflect the changing needs of the business.
Inspections are not easy. A mobile inspection app that eliminates paperwork, streamlines the workflows, and makes the process transparent goes a long way in reducing the drag, and ensure the inspection meet its realized objectives.
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Business leaders, often focusing on the immediate and the more pressing, relegate internal processes to the secondary. As a result, inefficiencies of various hues creep in, over time.
Inefficiencies manifest in many ways. Business processes and systems may be aligned to suit the technology rather than technology being applied to conduct business in the most seamless way. Additional processes may have come up to complete a part of the original process. Often, critical gaps in business processes and data silos make employees struggle to find the right information, or the right tools. The Boston Consulting Group estimates the amount of “procedures, vertical layers, interface structures, coordination bodies, and decision approvals” having increased by anywhere from 50 percent to 350 percent over the last fifteen years, in US and European companies, with managers spending as much as 40% of their time writing reports, and 30% to 60% of their time coordination meetings! The net result is invariably business executives having to work harder than necessary.
One knee-jerk reaction when such inefficiencies become too disruptive to be ignored is automation. However, mere automation of inefficient processes only accentuates waste. While automation is indeed a step in the right direction, businesses need to also make their processes smarter.
Here are a few ways in which business processes can be tweaked to enable working smart instead of working hard.
- Standardize processes, but one size does not always fit all. What works well in one division may not work well for the company overall. 3M found this out the hard way when they applied Six Sigma not just in accounting, but across-the-board, resulting in stifled innovation in a company where innovation is the key USP.
- Innovate. A 2011 PwC study reports 80% of CEOs believing innovation to drive efficiencies and providing a competitive advantage.
- Leverage on-demand and scalable cloud solutions such as PaaS and IaaS to optimize resources, reduce costs, create innovative products and services, and add value to existing business systems.
- Apply technology to tighten collaboration between stakeholders, including customers. Celina Insurance Group implemented a highly collaborative extranet to bring the company employees, 500+ independent agents and customers closer, and offer easy access to all relevant information, resulted in massive gains.
- Integrate the supply chain with business processes, across the value-chain, in real time, to connect people with the information they require. Diary major Danone reduced the timeline of its production optimization plans from two days to a mere 15 minutes now, by updating and integrating its production planning and scheduling technology.
- Leverage analytics to get a 360-degree view, and derive value, from available data. Apply emerging technologies to unlock data and information resident in physical and digital systems, and subject such data to analytics. Ensure such new intelligence is readily available to those in a position to use it, and actionable to make better decisions.
- Enable a mobile workforce capable of collaborating anytime from anywhere. Today’s executives and customers are always on the move. Mobile apps and workflows save time, improve efficiency, and also unlock new possibilities.
About 70% of CEOs invest in IT to reduce costs and to become more efficient, and 54% of them focus on growth initiatives powered by emerging technologies such as mobility. About 80% of manufacturing businesses expect mobile apps to increase their productivity by at least six percent. Mobile phones powered by cloud-based storage and apps allow employees to save a whopping 57 minutes a day, on average.
Smart employees are already up to the task. They often cobble up their own solutions, taking advantage of the tons of resources available online, when existing business resources do not meet their requirements. About 90% of all employees use cloud-based services, such as Skype and LinkedIn, for their work, and 79% of employees use cloud-based file sharing and collaboration tools, such as Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive. Needless to say, such improvisations do not do away with all inefficiencies and come with grave security and data privacy risks.
Businesses need to facilitate smart employees by developing custom apps that automate workflows, provide digital forms, and sync offline data. A major stumbling block is the extensive time and resources that development of new custom apps requires. IT departments, already hard-pressed to keep existing systems running, often find the task of designing and updating apps that need to work with multiple platforms and disparate devices, too onerous. The solution is to partner with experienced providers, who not only make available complete and customized solutions, but also chips in with their specialized expertise and experience, to realise smart business processes.
Partnering with us allows you to have the best of both worlds – ability to roll out apps that leverage the latest cutting edge technology to enable smart business processes, without straddling your already overburdened and resource-crunched IT team with more responsibilities.
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Food safety- how much does this factor affect you while having food that are not made at home? Not much? Let’s see some facts then;
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every year, 48 million people (equal to one in every 6 Americans) get sick from the food they consume. Of that, 128,000 wind up in hospitals and close to 3,000 die!
Now you probably see the need for ensuring the safety and quality of food that you give your children. That is not all, if you are still sitting back and relaxing that the Government regulates the food safety through regular inspections and acts to make sure that the safest food reaches you, see some more figures below:
“To speak only of food inspections: the United States currently imports 80% of its seafood, 32% of its fruits and nuts, 13% of its vegetables, and 10% of its meat. In 2007, these arrived in 25,000 shipments a day from about 100 countries. The FDA was able to inspect about 1% of these shipments, down from 8% in 1992. In contrast, the USDA is able to inspect 16% of the food under its purview. By one assessment, the FDA has become so short-staffed that it would take the agency 1,900 years to inspect every foreign plant that exports food to the United States.”
― Marion Nestle, Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine
As you can see, FDA has long been incapable of ensuring food safety standards for a vast number of food-processing facilities out there, shows the report. The overall number of FDA inspected facilities decreased from 17000 in 2004 to 15900 in 2009. In 2009 FDA contracted with 41 states to conduct inspections and about 59% of FDA’s inspections were carried out by them. Lack of enough personnel to carry out the investigations, ineffectiveness of the current systems, poor technology adoption in auditing, lack of proper software or applications that automate work etc. have contributed to this ineffectiveness. The report concludes that serious steps should be taken to ensure that contract inspections are effective and food given to citizens are safe. Yes, of course, but how can FDA fix this?
Business Process Automation
Will an increase in funding, or hiring and training more inspectors to carry out the inspections change the situation? Is it going to help in the long run? Maybe not. Surviving in the world of food business will need a lot of planning, intelligence, automation, attention to details and as many industry leaders say, a smart and latest auditing technology that reduces the overheads of manual processes and speeds up the processes efficiently through automation.
Auditing is indispensable to ensure the processes and procedures in food manufacturing, processing and transportation occur safely and correctly. Yet the system has long been inefficient in terms of accuracy and time management. In an era where technology permeates in skyrocketing speed in every aspect of business, the food companies should very well understand its capabilities and take maximum advantage of it. Technology should be applied to automate the regulation of quality and safety assurance programs to yield improved data accuracy, better time savings, corrective action tracking, reliable validation, real-time reporting, customizable data collection, and management. The amount of manual work going into inspections should decrease and technology should enable fast, easy and reliable food audits.
Any new food safety auditing technology should include the following basic features:
- The system should be able to standardize and centralize all food regulation records in a single place, so that it is easy to create, approve and distribute documents. Document/ record control must be made easy and convenient.
- Should manage internal and external food compliance audits including tasks like scheduling, reporting and corrective action follow-up.
- Should provide a flexible configurable platform to manage, define, track and report on changing business practices to support food safety.
- The audit trails should have facilities for electronic signatures to eliminate the inefficiencies of paper and pen based reporting systems.
- Transparency of supplier’s quality processes.
- The system should be able to integrate document systems for single/multiple locations, such that information needed is easily accessible to participants, anywhere, anytime.
- Should allow better visibility over activities and processes internally and externally.
- The system should be able to output different visual representations for data. For instance, numeric data collected by representatives should be made available in graphs or charts.
- Users should be able to see histories and data collected over a period of time to view the trends in the readings collected, enabling better decision making.
- Ability to collect pictures, videos and documents as evidence.
- Provision for responsibility assignment.
- Fast generation of automated reports and documents to demonstrate compliance.
- Ability to make any module mobile through mobile apps.
The benefits of using such auditing software are:
- It standardizes workflows into simple processes that repeat over time.
- Quality remains consistent and will improve the overall efficiency.
- All related information is available in a central place.
- No jobs or duties are left unattended or forgotten.
- Easy to assign responsibility at each stage.
- Increased integration and timely interaction helps for better collaboration between you and your suppliers.
It’s only when the entire industry streamlines its processes, and communicates via a streamlined, efficient and accurate technology can we expect a progress in the quality of food we consume outside. Our own product, Reachout allows authorities to create and manage the audit work orders and track the trends of audit compliance. It might be tough to change existing processes but the key to transition is selecting software that can be customized according to your unique auditing processes and needs. Choosing software which can easily integrate into the current processes and procedures without the need to make major revamps to existing systems will be ideal for a start. Talk to our experts to know what kind of software will work best for your business needs.
Image courtesy: Canadian Food Safety