Automation with the Human Touch: Balancing Agility and Standardization

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Simon Jarcke is Head of Corporate Digital Business Innovation at Freudenberg, a family-owned global technology group headquartered in Germany and founded in 1849.

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He recently explained how the organization has leveraged the latest technology advances to give businesses greater agility and control over their processes without sacrificing standardization and efficiency:

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“I think the key to success, especially in times of digital transformation, lies in the philosophy and practices of Lean. A core tenet of Lean is jidoka, which is about the relationship between man and machine. This means that Something like machines alone are dumb. Only when humans themselves create possibilities to be able to contribute, can they create value together. The machine or process must always guarantee a human the ability to intervene when The assumed positions no longer exist.

“This idea, sometimes called automation with a human touch, should be our vision when it comes to digital machines and processes. The consequences of these ideas are important: they are designed to empower everyone involved in a digitized business process. so that major mistakes in the process can be rapidly or immediately addressed, identified, and corrected.

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“Today, things often look different. Just ask any knowledge worker or specialist in purchasing, accounting or sales to what extent they see themselves in a position to solve a problem in a process today. They often talk about inefficiencies. are aware of lags in the process, but they are at the mercy of the machine. They generally do not own the technical limits of their process, so they cannot intervene immediately when the assumed conditions do not exist. Huh.

According to Jidoka, what employees need is not just a UI to interact with digitized business processes, but a way to quickly and easily customize the process.

“But standardized end-to-end processes were the gold standard of the last decade. Do we want to leave it at that and allow each individual to make adjustments to processes or establish their own? Of course, in the end, we want a consistent and unified data architecture across the enterprise. The good news is you can balance the two: agility and standardization. and SAP Build Process Automation [part of the SAP Business Technology Platform] There is an important component for us to do this.

“What does this look like in practice? Let me give you an example. My colleague, David, is responsible for ordering iPhones for his colleagues, and he’s very unhappy with the process so far.

“Let me give you some background: Conceptually, when an employee gets an iPhone, two things happen. First an investment budget is requested and approved to provide funding for the iPhone, and Second, a procurement process is then initiated and run to procure the device with this budget.

“Up until now the process lead time was often several weeks due to the many manual steps and hands-on involved. Admittedly, this was a situation David was not proud of. But then digital process automation came to the rescue. Since all the data APIs were present for all required steps, we were able to create so called Actions for them in SAP Build Process Automation.

“This was a step that used to be done by the Pro-Code developer, which involved all the plumbing between S/4 HANA, SAP BTP, side-by-side CAP applications, etc., but this action is now an easier one within process automation.” It was available as a ready-to-use component that David could use to develop the process for ordering a new iPhone on his own.

“So they created a simple form that asked just three things: Who are you, what is your cost center and which iPhone model do you want? And once that form is submitted, in S/4HANA by Action The appropriate APIs are called to create the required items and run all the approvals needed there. For example, in S/4, a very simple purchase requisition is created, which is no different than what you would expect using the standard UI. But through a simple iPhone ordering form, it was much easier and faster for the average user. So orderers are happy, David is happy, the process lead time has been reduced massively.

“This example shows what I mean by balancing agility and standardization. Actions in SAP process automation are not only a great way to combine the work of pro-code and no-code developers, they also make the process quicker and easier.” There are also expansion points in the meaning of jidoka to adapt from.

“And this, by building on existing standardization, as in our example, by automatically creating standard objects in SAP back-end solutions such as S/4HANA. The ease with which such scenarios can be implemented has What motivated us to choose SAP Process Automation We think that SAP has a unique selling point in this regard compared to other typical competitors, where it will be more difficult to achieve.

“Of course, SAP still has a ways to go, but we have great confidence and SAP that we share the same vision of more empowerment, more agility, more modularity and more lean thinking in digital process automation.”

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