Seamless Flow, or hyperautomation, is transforming industries and societies across the world. Automated, digitalized processes and AI-enhanced decisions reduce costs and free up time to spend on adding real customer value. At Sandvik, Seamless Flow is a big step forward in the digitalization journey, says CEO Stefan Widing.
Seamless flow is a concept that usually refers to a production process where information flows automatically across the value chain, producing the desired product or service without human intervention.
Normally applied to industrial processes, the concept is tried elsewhere too. At Fiumicino Airport in Rome, for example, the Seamless Flow One-ID platform uses facial recognition technology to reduce the amount of time travelers need to move through the airport. The opt-in self-service solution covers every step of the passenger journey, from check-in all the way to boarding. Those who choose to use it must submit to a facial recognition scan, which is compared to the photo on their official travel document. The traveler’s facial biometrics will be linked to their passport and travel information, allowing them to move through security checkpoints and board the plane without needing to show their boarding pass or any additional documents.
If that sounds like a traveler’s dream, Seamless Flow conjures up “manufacturing Nirvana.” Is it true? “Hyperautomation is irreversible and inevitable,” states leading technology research and advisory company Gartner in Top Strategic Tech Trends for 2021. “Everything that can be automated will be automated.” The report describes how hyperautomation has been trending over the past few years, mainly because of the pent-up demand for operationally resilient business processes. Competitive pressures for efficiency, efficacy and business agility are forcing organizations to address it, and those who don’t will struggle to remain competitive or to differentiate.
Hyperautomation does not necessarily render human employees redundant, but rather they are granted more time to spend on activities that really result in customer value.
Seamless flow is not a new phenomenon, but factory shutdowns and disrupted supply chains in the wake of Covid-19 have sped up its deployment. In addition, rapid developments within the IT landscape during the past decade have enabled significant efficiency improvements in internal processes. Within most organizations, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems now support many of the tasks that previously needed to be done manually.
Hyperautomation does not necessarily render human employees redundant, but rather they are granted more time to spend on activities that really result in customer value, such as advice and guidance (few customers view the manual key punching of routine orders as adding value). Business magazine Forbes notes that until a few years ago, most organizations wrestled with many simple, repetitive and rules-based tasks and processes. People could have been deployed to do something more productive and worthwhile had there been a choice.
An important part of the strategy
“Everything changed,” Forbes adds, “when robotic process automation (RPA) came into the picture. Dull and repetitive tasks could now be assigned to automation robots. They completed tasks faster and with near precision. RPA increased operational efficiency, accuracy and error reduction. All in all, it improved employee productivity and helped accomplish business goals faster.”
At Sandvik, CEO Stefan Widing says: “Seamless Flow is an important part of our strategy in the coming years. We have seen great results within other companies that are perhaps a little further ahead in their journey. Automation of tasks and processes frees up time that can then be used in more truly value-added work and help to reduce lead times. I am a strong believer in Seamless Flow and see it as a fundamental for Sandvik.