The Future of Digital Workflows

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Posted on February 18

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What is a digital workflow, and why is it such a hot topic? A workflow is simply a series of steps undertaken to achieve a result. A digital workflow is a workflow that utilizes a computer and software to achieve the desired result. Digital workflows are an effective way to improve productivity in today’s workplace. The future of workflows is in workflow automation. Workflow automation is the automation of digital workflows. The goal of automated workflows is not to eliminate personnel, but instead to eliminate the waste that often accompanies manual workflows, allowing the workforce to accomplish more with the same resources.

As reported by the Harvard Business Review, there are currently about 780 million “Knowledge workers” worldwide. A knowledge worker is simply someone whose job involves handling or using information. 

By this definition, most of us are knowledge workers. These 780 million knowledge workers spend an average of 6.5 hours per day on the computer. 

These workers spent 28% of their time on email, 19% gathering information, and 14% engaged in internal communications. 61% of a worker’s time is spent gathering and disseminating information. 

Automating workflows can help make this time more efficient.

There are several concrete benefits of workflow automation:

  • Save time / Save money
  • Better experience/outcome
  • Remove repetitive / redundant / unproductive paperwork
  • Reduce errors
  • Generate useful data
  • Improve consistency

A real-life example is the best way to illustrate this concept. A technician is tasked with inspecting a wind turbine gearbox. The gearbox is a critical high wear component and requires periodic inspection. The technician utilizes a special camera (borescope) and a paper checklist to inspect the internal components of the gearbox. In this example, he discovers a chipped tooth on a gear. The gear will have to be replaced. When the inspection is complete, he returns to the office to write the report and manually insert the images from the inspection. This process is a manual workflow and takes several hours to complete. He then attaches the report and the scanned checklist (another manual step) to the inspection work order, and closes the work order, signaling that the inspection task is complete. At this point, all relevant data from the inspection (i.e. chipped tooth on gear) is buried in the report and checklist. The people responsible for engineering and operations have to spend time and resources to get the data they need – ‘what is the condition of the gearbox…’ Knowing that the work order is complete is nice, but it doesn’t tell them what they need to know. The actionable finding has to be communicated manually.

Using the same task example, the client works with HUVR to created digital inspection checklists for these gearbox inspections. The inspection task is unchanged, except that the technician uses a tablet instead of a paper checklist, and the manipulation of images is no longer a manual process. 

He simply synchs his table when he returns from the field. His report and checklist are complete at this point. He has already saved himself several hours. He then attaches the electronic copy of the report and checklist to his work order and closes the work order. Because the inspection data is in the database, reporting and analytics are instantly available to the operations and engineering personnel. 

They know exactly what is wrong with the gearbox (hey, there is a chipped tooth on the gear) without having to dumpster dive for the information. This is now a digital workflow.  

The automation process doesn’t have to end here. HUVR created integration processes and API’s for automatically inserting inspection data into work order (EAM – Enterprise Asset Management) systems. Now the technician completes his inspection as before, and synch’s his tablet. His report and checklist are attached to the work order as before, but the additional automation features allow the EAM system to flag the operations and engineering personnel with additional relevant information. In this case, the availability of spare parts, lead time for procurement of parts, the number of technicians required to repair, the asset availability for repair, and other factors. The operations and engineering staff can create an efficient repair plan without having to dive into a half-dozen different systems. Further, with the inspection data in a database, analytics provides valuable data regarding how many issues of this sort are being uncovered fleet-wide, and how big this problem could be. The engineering personnel, armed with data, can make a decision regarding inspection frequency for their remaining assets. The handling of inspection data, from the technicians’ tablet to the end-user, is now handled in an automated digital workflow. No personnel has been replaced, but the decision-makers can make the decisions they need, much quicker, armed with data and analytics.

At HUVR, we are passionate about improving the efficiency of our client’s workflows. Contact us to determine what solutions we have for your industry.

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