Analysts estimate that 30-50% of all automation projects fail. This low success rate isn’t attributable to a lack of understanding or too low of an investment in automation. Rather, it’s the inability to deliver the expected results after the project completes.
Automation projects fall apart primarily because of infrastructure-related hangups, software reliability, and project management issues. When automated equipment fails during production, critical operations are compromised with unnecessary downtime, and the end-user experience is undeniably degraded.
Why, then, are digital transformation initiatives in automation so hard to execute? How come nearly half of all projects fail or deliver less than overwhelming results? Here, we take a look at four root-cause elements that contribute to the failure of so many automation projects:
1. Lack of collaboration between business departments and IT
Studies on why automation initiatives fail reveal a broadly consistent pattern of misaligned objectives across multiple departments in an organization. This lack of success is especially pronounced when there is an inherent disconnect between business departments and IT staff. Companies that foster a more siloed corporate culture lacking in cross-departmental collaboration often find themselves in a position of disconnect that takes their teams in divergent directions.
Maintaining an agile and multidisciplinary approach to innovation and growth is the best way to prevent a widening chasm between your company’s functional business leaders and technology professionals. Executive teams that fail to understand their IT operations tend to set unrealistic expectations that, in turn, lead to less than unified goals.
The technically uninitiated want software to work seamlessly without a rational understanding of the complexities that go into developing it. The upshot of this is that many IT departments fall underfunded and underappreciated despite their sophisticated and essential contributions.
Before undergoing any comprehensive digital initiative, leadership teams should first seek to recalibrate their connection to their IT staff. This is the best way to begin your project to ensure that your hard efforts aren’t lost. Strong cross-departmental communications channels put you in a good position to realize a strong return on your investment.
2. Failure to adapt in a changing environment
Managing multiple applications with complex and diverse connections between them in a rapidly transforming operational environment is no easy task. The pre-packaged manufacturing execution and enterprise resource planning systems that companies have come to rely upon are constantly releasing new applications and updates, with even more patches to address bugs and other security concerns.
If unprepared, facilities in a constant state of flux because of continuously evolving software requirements often find themselves vulnerable. While the entire corporate initiative to automate might be aimed at increasing productivity and staying competitive, companies that can’t adapt to change produce the opposite results.
Not only are applications continually evolving, but automated processes and approaches to digital business are constantly updating, as well. These elements always changing to keep companies lucrative and within legal and regulatory compliance. The continuously altering digital environment is one of the biggest factors that ultimately break a company’s plan to automate successfully.
Businesses that can’t keep up with the task or the expense of updating and rewriting their code-based automation solutions are the most prone to fail at implementing them. Likewise, many business owners forget to account for the costs associated with hiring skilled software engineers required to maintain their systems. That’s why many companies partner with trusted outsources like EZSoft to cut IT expenditures.
The expenses associated with developing and maintaining automated software internally can prove cost-prohibitive for many small to medium-sized businesses. Companies can expect to pay between $5000 and $15,000 for a single application. Presently, due to high costs, fewer than 51% of all automated companies utilize more than 10 industrial applications in their processes.
3.Avoiding complex automated solutions
Many business leaders are quite aware of the negative impacts of change so they set the bar too low when it comes to implementing their automation projects. This tendency among leadership teams to harbor low expectations always contributes to underwhelming results and an undesirably low return on investment.
Companies that are biased toward finding the simplest solutions often limit themselves to solving one or two straightforward challenges, eliminating a few repetitive tasks on the plant floor, for example. Finding the right automation implementation process is undeniably no simple task. Moreover, applications that make more than five decisions and solutions that require more than five applications are highly complex.
While automation projects can fail if they’re too complicated for the organization to manage, overly simplified automated industrial solutions are self-defeating. Remaining averse to complex solutions sets limitations on business growth. Furthermore, any significant investments you made into expensive infrastructure, software, training, and consulting services can’t be justified to achieve such basic results. Successful automation requires companies to evolve along with it, which means your organization must not shy away from adopting increasingly complex solutions.
4. Implementing unnecessary one-off projects
Automation costs are often steep, so many companies approach implementing solutions in an ad-hoc manner. The fundamental problem with this strategy is that many areas of an operation find themselves misidentified as favorable candidates for automation when they’re not. It’s not unusual, however, that these piecemeal solutions lead to some initial success, prompting business owners to look for other low-hanging fruit they can automate.
These upgrades lend themselves to a temporary fix, only. They don’t display the change resiliency nor the capacity to be reused and repurposed down the line. This shortsighted tactic is usually a direct reflection of the existing disjunct between executive teams and IT described above. There’s a distinct lack of an overarching strategy to engage automation that keeps the bigger picture in view.
When businesses can’t find a flexible and scalable path to automation, this creates significant barriers to realizing a praiseworthy ROI. Reworking poor decisions is tedious and resource-intensive. That’s why every effort to find the right long-term strategy has to be made at the forefront to get the most out of your industrial automation solutions.
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EZSoft is a full-service integrator of process control systems in Pennsylvania, serving the pharmaceutical and food and beverage process industries since 1999.
To find out how EZSoft’s unique approach to automation can unlock the most out of your process intelligence, call (484) 568-5040 today.