• Andrew Bowden

Automation comes to town

AUTOMATION and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the current buzzwords as managers look for that extra edge to run more efficient businesses. LinkedIn users will no doubt have seen spectacular developments in robotics, building on the established use of robotic machines in manufacturing. A recent video of one doing back flips even popped up on Tony Squires’ sports panel show The Back Page last week. #TheBackPage

Robotics is just one form of automation, however. The process of using technology to complete manual tasks can be traced back to one Henry Maudslay who, according to the master historian, Simon Winchester, changed the face of manufacturing in England in the early 1800s.

Winchester writes in his new book, “EXACTLY – How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World”, that the Royal Navy, expanding in the face of the Napoleonic threat, was having trouble sourcing enough ships’ timber pulley blocks. It needed 130,000 of them each year. Existing supplies came from hundreds of workshops across Southern England. Maudslay, who “..would go on to become one of the most influential figures in the early days of precision engineering”, devised and built the machinery for a huge steam-powered factory (the first) at Portsmouth - the Block Mills - that could produce one block per minute and thousands of identical blocks per week with only 10 workers, none of whom were artisans. In a stroke the livelihoods of thousands of people were affected as the new factory was able to supply the total requirement.

Winchester notes that at the same time the mechanisation of the textile industry was occurring in the north of England with similar results. In this instance, there was a backlash as the followers of Ned Ludd, broke into factories and smashed the new equipment. The term “luddite” is still in common use, “...mainly as a pejorative term for anyone who resists the siren song of technology.”

So, automation is nothing new. It’s been putting people out of work for 200 years. Effectively it drove the Industrial Revolution, which created hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the creation of the modern world, good and bad.

While automation has continued to drive the manufacturing sector, it was not until the Digital Revolution and the development of cloud computing that automation of manual processes in the office environment took off.

Let’s look at a core business activity – Debtor Management - essentially making sure that clients pay up. Historically, some tough cookie in the office was tasked with the laborious and thankless task of calling debtors, writing reminder letters/emails or text messages to get slackers to pay up.

Now, there are several programs that enable firms to automate their debtor management so that in the time it takes to send one payment reminder, a firm can send hundreds, or thousands and each message provides a link to a payment gateway.

One Parramatta accountant commented after using the CEREBIZ system for several months that not only did cash collection improve but so did the relationship with clients. Proving that clients can be unusual and needy.

A key advantage of cloud-based office software, such as CEREBIZ, is the time saving in data entry. The integration of data flows between ledgers in the cloud obviates the need for spreadsheets and double inputs, and eliminates errors. Our learned friend at Parramatta said that the time saved in data entry with his new system was enabling his Practice Manager to offer extra fee-paying services to clients, such as doing their payroll. So, automation in this instance might be reducing a need for labour on the one hand but creating opportunities on the other.

This is particularly apt for the professional advisory sector where competition and rationalisation are driving the need to offer clients a wider range of services.

Andrew Bowden

0438 200 552

11 October 2019

The CEREBIZ suite of modules has been designed to Speed Up Cash Collection, Automate Manual Processes, Closely Monitor Practice Performance in real time and provide High Value Client Advisory Services.

Go to the Cerebiz website for further information and to arrange an online demonstration.

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