Is automation the answer?

There is a lot of excitement about the use of automation to combat human error or make things run faster, leaner and more productive.

Oh no! Another anti-automation rant from someone who could be out of a job if the world is run by machines and not people. Well I am not a naysayer to automation so you can rest easy.

Well I can say you can rest easy but in reality, those considering automation is the answer to their transport, factory processes and IT networks, are probably having many sleepless nights right now – if they are not, then they should be, because automation isn’t that easy.

Reviewing the work that HFEx has done to date and the articles we have read; for automation to achieve the benefits we all believe it will achieve it comes down to three principles:

  • Will the end user trust the automation? Look at your car, think of the last mechanical failure that could have ended in disaster (mine was a tyre blowout at 100kmh). Would an automated system have managed the situation any better? Could you trust a computer to keep you safe? If you did crash into another car, are you to blame … or the computer?
  • Will the automation ever fail? If it does can a human continue where the computer left off – look at IT systems, when they crash, we find the majority of human errors occur during (panicked) remediation of the initial failure. This can come in the form of poor customer communications, misinformation or increased downtimes. The business continuity specialist have a lot to answer for in this respect.
  • How much does it cost to buy and maintain? As a business professional, would you purchase some state of the art automation, saving you $$$s only to find that the maintenance and servicing costs sky rocket. Often we find that decision makers to purchase the automation are not often the people that have to pay out to change manage or maintain the automation.

Automation comes in many shapes and forms, and all result in the human moving further away from the focus of control. Often it is not the classic auto-pilot scenario where aircraft can essentially land themselves whilst the pilot monitors the numerous systems at play. Sometimes it can be subtle, with a simple shift of where the end-user focuses their attention, changes in the mental processes they use to make a decision or even the removal of process steps – all of which need to be considered to ensure they are not predecessors to a future human error.

If you have any comments or would like to know more, please email us at info@hfex.co.nz. We would love to hear from you.​​